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Gees return home more experienced than before

FIRST-YEAR GOALKEEPER CYNTHIA Leblanc and fourth-year defender Gillian Baggot didn’t have a typical summer. While most students were working, studying, or partying, these two Gee-Gees were competing overseas as part of Team Canada’s women’s soccer team in FISU.

After defeating Russia 1-0 on Aug. 21, Team Canada secured fifth place in the international tournament, matching the highest Canadian standings achieved in the 1993 and 2005 FISU games. Baggot scored the lone goal, redirecting a corner kick to capture the win.

But for both Leblanc and Baggot, it wasn’t the team’s standing that made the entire experience worthwhile.

“Competing with the Canadian FISU team was a lot different than competing with the Gee-Gees, because you get together a week before the competition with players from across Canada and have to learn to play together,” explained Baggot in an email to the Fulcrum while in China in August. “[You have] to get to know each other so that you are prepared to play as a unit.”

Both Gees agreed that there was a vast difference between playing on an interuniversity and internation level, and that their new-found skills will be useful come the start of their season at the U of O—including a stronger desire to win.

“Playing with some of the best [Canadian Interuniversity Sport] players has definitely made me a better player,” said Baggot. “Something I can take from this experience to bring to Gees-Gees is the importance of cohesion on and off the field to succeed in our season.”

For Leblanc, a rookie scripted into the Garnet and Grey a few months before the FISU tournament, the experience was more than just one of learning.

“I think this is an amazing opportunity for all the university athletes to show the world what they are capable of. Also wearing a jersey with a Canada logo on it makes you feel proud of [the team] you are part of,” she said. “Representing my country at the university games was an amazing experience.”

The U of O women’s soccer team’s home opener takes place on Sept. 14, with both players excited to refocus on the Garnet and Grey.

“From now until November, it is all about focusing on the success of the Gee-Gees 2011 soccer season,” said Baggot.

—Katherine DeClerq