Strong close to great season and career for Francki, Khoury, and Leblanc
The Gee-Gees women’s soccer team suffered the pain of shocking defeat as they were downed 2-1 at home by the Laurier Golden Hawks in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinals. The loss spells the end of Ottawa’s chance of making it to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship.
The Gees had to make it to the OUA finals for a bid to nationals but instead, they were forced to deal with the heartbreak of an untimely end to their season. The sense of disappointment on the field was especially strong, because they led for a large portion of the game.
Ottawa came into the match unbeaten in the regular season and had previously secured their place in the semifinals with a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win over Carleton.
The Gees could not harness their goal-scoring ways in the first half as they probed the Laurier defence for an opening but found nothing.
Julia Francki and Pilar Khoury each had chances to pull the Gees ahead, but the Laurier goalkeeper Ashley Almeida would keep the game deadlocked at halftime.
The offensive pressure would eventually pay dividends in the second as Ottawa took the lead in the 58th minute after Faythe Lou fired the ball home on a scramble at the mouth of the goal.
A freak goal that bounced off of a Gee-Gee defender in the 83rd minute seemed to indicate the Gees would be playing their second overtime game of the postseason, until the Golden Hawks scored on the last play of the game in another penalty-box scramble.
“We actually played really well (against Laurier),” said Gee-Gees head coach Steve Johnson. “It was a bad six minutes. We didn’t finish the game off and because of that we’re not going to nationals.”
Deflated, the Gees set their sights on the York Lions, a team previously undefeated before being shocked by Queen’s in the other semifinal.
The Gees started strong and never let up on Nov. 8 to clinch the OUA bronze medal. They took the lead after a corner kick was deflected and found Julia Francki waiting in front of the net to drive it in.
A messy play that was equally a well-placed strike by the Gee-Gees and an own-goal by the York keeper in the 70th minute ensured the win. The team continued immense defensive pressure to close out the game, ensuring they would not leave the season empty handed.
“We rebounded nicely today,” said Johnson on the win.
The game was even more important for the Gee-Gees as they said goodbye to their star seniors—Cynthia Leblanc, Julia Francki, and Pilar Khoury along with role players Mélissa Pesant, and Elisabeth Wong.
“We talked a little bit about what their careers meant, and in five years we’ve been to nationals three times and won the OUA championship twice,” said Johnson. “Over five years we won 67 league games and only lost three. So it’s been a remarkable achievement for them.”
Although it may not have been the storybook ending to a career, perhaps it was sweeter going out with a win in front of family and friends at home. In the end, it was a fitting final chapter for three of the best soccer players to ever don a Gee-Gees jersey.
—With files from Spencer Murdock.