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Women’s soccer beats the Blues for the second time this season

THE GEE-GEES MASCOT danced to the sound of fans cheering and shouting as the University of Ottawa women’s soccer team (12-3-1) fought against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues (11-2-3) in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA)  East semifinal match on Oct. 30. The evenly matched teams battled for the second consecutive time on Matt Anthony field that week, and while the Varsity Blues put up a valiant effort, the Gees managed a second-half victory to claim the game 2-1.

“I think we were a little nervous,” said U of O first-year goaltender Cynthia Leblanc of the well-matched game. “We went on the field scared to lose just because we knew how big this game was.”

The first half of the game saw two teams struggling to maintain dominance over the ball. Second-year striker Elisabeth Wong made a goal off a corner kick, but the goal was called offside. Toronto came back with a goal of their own off a free kick and a misplaced defensive manoeuver by Leblanc, leaving the Gees trailing behind the Varsity Blues 1-0.

Head coach Steve Johnson took the girls aside during halftime for a pep talk that seemed to change the team’s momentum.

“I’d say [our mood was] concerned but positive,” he explained. “We really didn’t like going down a goal, and we used that opportunity to relax the players, refocus, remind them that we’ve been a very good team through 90 minutes—we’ve got the fitness, we’ve got the healthy bodies, and we’ve got the depth. We made some changes, brought in some fresh players, [and] rotated fresh players in the lineup.”

“I think it started slow,” said Leblanc. “We got scored on and it woke us up. When we went inside at the half, we talked and discussed what we needed to do and got on the field pumped for the second half.”

Wong managed to take advantage of the team’s burst of energy after halftime with a quick kick into the left corner of the net 10 minutes into the half, tying the score 1-1. The Garnet and Grey seemed refreshed and reverted to their usual quick-paced, team-oriented sense of play.

Both squads picked up the pace, resulting in three yellow cards and a red card called on Toronto’s Zovel Hyre. The Gees capitalized on the free kick with fourth-year defence Gillian Baggott spinning the return into the net for the winning goal.

“I think over the full 90 [minutes] we were able to wear them down,” said Johnson. “You can see it in the second half and they made substitutions of injured players. I just don’t think the other team had as much depth to them.”
Johnson commented on the aggressive nature of their first playoff game, hoping the Gees can keep up their organized play for the final games of the season.

“That’s the playoffs—it’s physical,” he said. “If we can perform like we did in that last 45 minutes, that would be great.”

“It’s hard to be able to dominate a team like Toronto for 90 minutes, so even being able to dominate them for 45 is terrific. We just need to find moments and be able to capitalize on them.”

The Gees will now prepare for the OUA Final Four at Wilfrid Laurier Nov. 5–6.

—Katherine DeClerq