By Dan Plouffe
Ottawa native Julia Francki couldn’t have asked for a much better start to her Canadian Interuniversity Sport soccer career. The former Cumberland Cobras star scored the game-winning goal to lead her University of Ottawa Gee-Gees to a 1-0 road victory over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues to kick off the Ontario University Athletics soccer season this past weekend.
“Scoring the winning goal in my first game felt amazing,” Francki tells SportsOttawa.com by e-mail. “It got rid of all the nerves I had going into the game.”
Gee-Gees coach Steve Johnson, in his 18th year leading the women’s soccer squad, didn’t have to look too far to find his new rookie midfielder. Francki just graduated from the school where Johnson teaches, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School in Orleans.
But the main selling point for Francki was the combination of athletics and a good education.
“I chose Ottawa University because it has an excellent academic program as well as a really strong soccer program,” notes Francki, whose squad added a scoreless draw against Ryerson the day after the Toronto match. “The girls on the team are all amazing soccer players and are also very nice and welcoming.”
Francki adds that she felt well-prepared for the first game because of the team’s pre-season training camp.
“The coaches did an excellent job of bringing the team together,” Francki describes. “It looks to be a very promising season with all the talent there is on this team.”
Johnson, for his part, was impressed with how quickly his new recruit adapted to the speed and physicality in the CIS.
“Although Julia is not big, she is a tough player to play against because she is very physical and will not back down from anything,” Johnson explains by e-mail, adding that work ethic, quickness and athleticism are other strong traits Francki possesses. “She had an immediate impact in her first OUA game and came close again late in the Ryerson game. She will continue to develop as a player as she gains experience at this higher level of play.
“Her attitude to training and the team are excellent and we are really happy to have Julia commit to our program. She has come in with a terrific class of recruits that will contribute our success this season.”
Topping the list of new recruits for Ottawa U is Cynthia Leblanc, a former under-17 and U20 Canadian national team goalkeeper. The core of the Gee-Gees’ roster is made up of Ottawa natives, including 2010 All-Canadian Gillian Baggott and 2010 OUA rookie-of-the-year Lili Wong.
Ottawa U also welcomed Pilar Khoury from Francki’s neighbouring club, the Gloucester Hornets. Altogether, Johnson hopes this year’s squad will be able to make its first trip to the CIS national championships since 2008.
“We have a talented group of veterans returning who have something to prove to themselves and the program,” Johnson says in a Gee-Gees press release. “We want to get back to nationals, and the OUA is really competitive at the top end – better than I have seen in many years.”
The Gee-Gees travel to Kingston to take on Queen’s this weekend before returning for their home opener against the Carleton Ravens, who were on opposite ends of 2-0 victories and losses at Ryerson and Toronto respectively last weekend.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at Matt Anthony Field next to the U of O sports complex.