By Dan Plouffe
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees continued a lifetime unbeaten record against the Carleton Ravens with a 2-1 women’s soccer victory last weekend. The Ravens showed they can keep up with the best teams in the OUA but remain outside the division’s elite three.
“We’re so pumped before going on the field (against Carleton),” explains Gee-Gees striker Sarah De Carufel, noting that the crowd for Ottawa U’s home opener which they won 2-0 over Carleton earlier this season was the biggest she’d seen for her team’s matches. “It’s always a great game.”
It’s been a very solid campaign up to this point for the 10-3-1 Gee-Gees, whose only notable blemishes are a pair of one-goal losses to division-leading Queen’s
“We don’t think teams like that are beyond us,” Ottawa U head coach Steve Johnson says in a news release.
De Carufel echoes those sentiments, noting that exceptional team spirit and plain old hard work in practice make the No. 10-ranked Gee-Gees a top national contender.
“For sure we’re going to nationals, and hopefully we’ll win them,” says De Carufel, who is second in team scoring behind Lili Wong’s 10 goals, while the Gee-Gees own five of the OUA’s top-20 scorers overall. “We have a really good team. I feel really good about the team this year. Everyone has the same goal and just works really hard.”
After a tough schedule to start the season against the conference’s top three teams in Toronto, Queen’s, and Ottawa, Carleton rebounded with a 4-1-2 in seven matches leading up to the contest against Ottawa U.
“(The losses against the top teams) tells you something,” acknowledges Ravens head coach Alex McNutt, whose 7-5-2 squad is tied for fourth place with Laurentian. “You can’t deny the facts, but we believe in the players that we’ve got and we believe that we can build and that we can compete soon. Who knows? It could be this season, but I know the team is in a good place right now.”
McNutt’s group is a “good mix” of veterans and first-year players, he notes, while the talented newcomers, including top-two scorers Adrianna Ruggiero and Nicole Filipow, have stepped right up to contribute.
PLAYERS FROM CAPITAL BOOST RAVENS & GEE-GEES
Both teams built successful programs largely on the backs of local players, with exactly half of the Gee-Gees and Ravens players listing Ottawa as their hometown. Gee-Gees rookie Pilar Khoury, a former Gloucester Hornet, was the most recent homegrown player to step up, scoring both goals in the 2-1 win over Carleton and earning the school’s athlete-of-the-week honours.
“Ottawa produces a high number of good players. Some of them stay in Canada, some of them go to the States, but girls’ soccer is fantastic in the city for its size,” says Gee-Gees assistant coach Stu Barbour, who teaches at a high school in Orleans like Johnson. “It does provide a lot of local talent, and the skill level of the average player has improved remarkably over the last number of years. The game has evolved so much.”
McNutt agrees that talent from the nation’s capital has been a big factor in making his team a perennially competitive club.
“The local player is very important,” he highlights. “Sometimes when you go out of town, you take a risk on a player because you’ve only had minimal exposure to them. You’re looking for good players wherever they’re coming from, but the local ones you know what you’re getting a little more.”
Although all kinds of Carleton and Ottawa U players know each other from their previous backgrounds in soccer, the Ravens vs Gee-Gees rivalry erases any of those friendships during the matches anyhow.
“It’s not only soccer, (the rivalry) is in every other sport as well,” notes De Carufel, who plays with many Ravens and Gee-Gees during the summertime as a Nepean Hotspur. “We know some players, but on the field, it’s a big rivalry.”
Carleton and Ottawa U both host Toronto and Ryerson this weekend to wrap up their regular seasons.
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