It was a fulfilling year for the garnet and grey varsity teams
Photo credit: Marta Keirkus & Remi Yuan
Yet another year is in the books—with several entries into the history books—for Gee-Gees varsity athletics.
During September, football and women’s soccer, two of the university’s landmark programs, began a new year with high hopes. The soccer team sustained a surprise loss in their first match of the season to University of Ontario Institute of Technology but recovered in valiant fashion, as they would not lose another game until the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national semifinal.
Led by all-Canadian striker Pilar Khoury and goalkeeper Cynthia Leblanc, the Gee-Gees won the CIS bronze medal and cemented their place as one of the best teams in the nation. The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champion’s squad finished with a 19-2 overall record and Khoury tied for fifth in the nation with 14 goals on the year.
The football season was a rollercoaster ride, equal parts fun, exciting, and scary. The Gees got a fantastic start to the year, downing York and Queen’s before getting stunned at the last second of the Panda Game by their archrival Carleton Ravens in front of a crowd of 12,000 at TD Place. It was from there that the Gees’ season started trending upward. During playoffs, the Gees took down Windsor only to let a lead slip against the McMaster Marauders in a game that would have sent them to the Yates Cup.
Ultimately, there were breakout performances all over the field for the Gees. Quarterback Derek Wendel established himself among the nation’s best, and freshmen Bryce Vieira and Jackson Bennett had fantastic rookie campaigns. Defensive lineman Ettore Lattanzio also took home the J.P. Metras Award for best lineman in the country, and will likely be drafted to the Canadian Football League in May. Following the strength of the soccer and football teams, the women’s rugby team also had great success.
The team rode a perfect regular season into the playoffs and was crowned Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) champions. But the Gee-Gees did not have the showing they were hoping for at nationals as they made their way to the bronze medal game, where they could not overcome Western for the medal.
Head coach Jennifer Boyd was also the first U of O recipient of the CIS Jim Atkinson coach of the year award. In less than two years, she made a name for herself as a great coach, leading her team in a perfect 7-0 season.
As always, the women’s volleyball team had a great season. The team had minor ups and downs before making it to the OUA final where they were narrowly bested by Toronto.
At nationals, the team lost their first match to Alberta, ending their bid for a gold medal. The team graduates Kelsey and Myriam English, but as their careers come to a close, second-year Kaly Soro looks to be the Gee-Gees’ star in waiting.
For swimming, cross country, and track and field, there were various bright spots throughout the season. But during nationals, the teams could not breakout of the middle of the pack to take home any medals.
Both swimming teams placed in the top 10 at the CIS championship. The men’s team finished ninth, the best result the team has ever had in national standings, and the women finished 10th overall and third among Ontario universities.
Women’s hockey struggled in the RSEQ, unable to make any significant moves during the playoffs; the team is still young and looks to improve next season with the majority of their players returning.
For Gee-Gees basketball there were two tales this year: the women’s team that was up and down all season and the men’s team that spent weeks as the number one team in the nation.
On the women’s side, midseason injuries killed the momentum of the team before they rallied to make the second round of the OUA playoffs before falling to Ryerson. There were memorable moments throughout the year, like Kellie Ring’s performance on an injured knee, willing the Gees to victory at the Capital Hoops Classic. During the last games of regular season, Jen Stoqua broke the single-game record for three-pointers, sinking 10 threes.
On the men’s side, 2014–15 was the best year in Gee-Gees basketball history. A night no one will forget will be the first Bytown battle, with the Gees taking down the Ravens for the top spot in the nation with a last-second basket from Johnny Berhanemeskel. With a record-breaking 10,780 crowd at Capital Hoops, the Ravens ended the Gees’ perfect season, which put Ottawa in the number-two spot once again. Then, with a shocking loss in the Wilson Cup playoffs, Berhanemeskel avenged with a 39-point performance to give the Gees the OUA bronze.
At nationals, the team fell short of the championship once again to the Ravens, to finish with a silver medal. Berhanemeskel was named the CIS player of the year and first team All-Canadian, while James Derouin was named coach of the year.
Looking back from the sidelines, this year evokes a brief feeling of satisfaction that’s quickly overtaken by a hunger to see the Gee-Gees on top.