After loss in OUA quarterfinals, Gee-Gees bounced back to win FISU world cup
After winning a national gold medal in 2018, the University of Ottawa women’s soccer team went into the 2019 season with the hopes of having another fairytale ending.
With a 12-0-2 record in the regular season, the Gee-Gees sat on top of the OUA East.
Unfortunately, playoffs did not go well for the Gee-Gees.
On home turf, the U of O dropped their quarterfinal matchup to the York Lions, losing their chance at an OUA gold medal, and even more significant, the chance to become back-to-back national championships.
The Gee-Gees bounced back and ended their season with a 3-1 win over the Western Mustangs for third place in the OUA.
Unlike previous seasons, the OUA bronze medal did not mark the end of their journey. Instead of sulking over losing the opportunity to play in the 2019 USports National Championship tournament, the U of O packed their bags for a long string of flights to Jinjiang, China to compete in the inaugural FISU University World Cup.
Leaders of the GeeGees team, Mikayla Morton and Katerine Delev, each played a huge role on and off the field throughout the season and helped the team win the national championship back in 2018.
For both Morton and Delev, this marked the third season they’ve played on the GeeGees team. This season, Morton broke the team’s record for most goals scored in the regular season with 17 while earning her first All-Canadian Award. Delev was named to the USports All-Rookie team in 2017 and has continued to be a key player in the midfield.
In addition, two graduated players from the 2018 championship team returned to the lineup for the overseas tournament. Delaney Rickert-Hall was added as a forward, and National Championship MVP Miranda Smith resumed her role in the mid-field.
“It felt natural to have Miranda on the field,” Delev said. “Delaney is so fun to play with, it was not hard to adjust.”
“They’re great players that bring a different kind of intensity because of their experience,” added Morton.
After travelling across the world, the team only had a few days to settle in and recover before taking the field to kick off the action. There were a number of things to adjust to, including a 13 hour time difference, different game times, and of course, a new stadium and new teams.
Trading their garnet and grey for red and white, the GeeGees hit the field with a new look, representing both the University of Ottawa and Canada.
“It’s everyone’s dream to play for team Canada but not everyone gets there, so being able to play and represent Canada with this team was awesome,” said Morton “We’re all extremely close, so being able to play for each other and for Canada was amazing.”
The U of O took the opening game 2-0 over Donghua University.
“Once we started playing we realized that we could do well,” said Delev.
In the remainder of the group phase, the GeeGees defeated the Siberian Federal University 3-0 and the College of Asian Scholars 4-2 to finish first in their pool and earn a place in the semi-finals.
Delev took notice of the much bigger crowd that the semi-final matchup against Beijing Normal University drew.
“In my mind, it just didn’t seem real,” explained Delev “I was playing soccer on a beautiful field, in front of a thousand people.”
The semi-final was a hard-fought on both ends but was not settled in regulation. Instead, the teams went to penalty kicks to decide which team would play in the final. There, all five Gees up to kick found the back of the net, taking Canada to the gold medal game where they met Paulista University out of Brazil.
Paulista University had dominated their side of the tournament and it was clear the gold medal game was going to be one for the history books.
“Brazil was unreal,” Delev said.
“The speed of play is crazy fast,” added Morton, “trying to keep up was very difficult.”
Just two minutes into play, Morton scored the first and only goal of the entire game.
The team kept the ball out of their own net for the entirety of the game and at the referee’s signal, the game was over and the GeeGees had won.
The Gees were honoured with their gold medals, hoisted the trophy, and smiled for photos, but being far away from home didn’t make the victory feel as sweet as it could have.
“We were happy, but being in China meant that there wasn’t really anyone there to applaud us and cheer for us so it didn’t seem real,” Delev explained.
At the time, the team may not have realized that while they were making history, but the FISU University World Cup tournament was followed by friends, family, and various other supporters back in North America.
“We were excited, obviously, but it didn’t really hit us until we got off the plane and saw how many people really were supporting us,” said Morton.
A day of travel brought the team and their newly earned international title back home to Ottawa where they were greeted with a warm welcome.
“When we got to the airport, seeing the rugby team, other athletes, sports services, some TV networks, it made me realize that it was actually big,” Delev said.
Having gold medals on both the national and international stage have been huge milestones for the Gee-Gees.
It is hard to imagine what more there is for the GeeGees women’s soccer team to accomplish, but it seems that making history has become a trend for the U of O. In 2020, the U of O will be looking to add to their growing list of accomplishments and be back in the running for a USports National Championship.
Next season, Morton will be entering her final year with the Gee-Gees team.
“I think the best way to end would be to go to nationals and helping my team out again,” said Morton.
Delev, on the other hand, still has two more seasons with the Gee-Gees.
“In my second year, hosting nationals and winning at home, I thought nothing better could happen,” said Delev said. “After winning an international gold medal in China, now I really don’t know what could top that, but we’ll see what happens.”