By Charlie Pinkerton
A wishful “good luck” mightn’t mean much to the group of girls soccer players graduating from high school this year in Ottawa — because we doubt they’ll need it.
Simply put, the Class of 2021 of girls soccer players from Ottawa is the city’s greatest of all time.
Girls graduating this year are responsible for two of the most historic accomplishments in the history of club soccer in this city. And now, around two dozen players from Ottawa will be taking their talents to the university level next year, having signed on to play on women’s teams at schools across Canada and the U.S.
The majority out of the graduating class are club products of Ottawa South United. At least 15 OSU girls will join university teams in the fall, with most being alumni of the club’s unforgettable 2019 Under-17 team. That team was the first in Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) history to win their age group’s “treble.” The aptly nicknamed achievement refers to capturing all three division titles: the midseason OPDL Cup, the overall OPDL regular season title, and the end-of-season OPDL Charity Shield.
After their successes in 2019, Abe Osman, the team’s coach told the Sports Pages, “There won’t be a team like this for a while.”
“When it really mattered, in all relevant games, they found a way to win,” Paul Harris, OSU’s technical director, also said in 2019.
Reflecting this May, Harris said that even with the girls’ history-making OPDL success, their greatest achievement is that so many of them are going on to play at the next level.
“Often you have very good teams and you get seven or eight to university,” he said. “So, for all (of these girls) to have the opportunity to go and play university soccer, I think that’s a great thing.”
Harris, who’s coached this class of OSU girls in some form or another for the better part of a decade, said what separated the 2021 graduating girls from other classes is the work ethic that they collectively displayed over the years. From a young age they improved, building skills and confidence over the years that led to them coming into their own around 15-years-old, Harris said. After improving from being a middling team in the OPDL in 2017, in 2018 — the season before their historic U17 season — the girls won Ottawa’s first OPDL overall championship in the U15 division.
“Their success wasn’t just an overnight success,” Harris said. “It was developed over a number of years and that’s what gives me great pride.”
The same year those OSU girls won their signature successes, in 2019, the U17 girls from Ottawa TFC — of which at least four players will join university teams in the fall — also made their mark on Ottawa club soccer history.
Ottawa TFC’s U17 girls team was not allowed to compete in the OPDL in 2019. The club was denied entry by the league that season following its founding as a merger between Cumberland United and FC Capital United. Instead, they submitted entries in the Ottawa-Carleton Soccer League’s adult women’s premier and competitive-1 divisions.
Ottawa TFC’s U17 girls would go on to compete in and win the 2019 Ontario Cup (OPDL teams aren’t allowed to compete in the Ontario Cup, which is the equivalent of the provincial championships).They followed that up by winning Canada Soccer’s Toyota National Championships, which was Ottawa’s first Canadian crown at the top youth level.
What will remain unsettled is the debate over exactly which of the 2019 history-making U17 club teams — OSU’s or Ottawa TFC’s? — was superior. There was no official crossover competition allowing the two teams to play each other.
West Ottawa is also the home club for at least five girls who will start university playing careers next season.
Unluckily, the question of what could the girls soccer players graduating from high school in Ottawa this year accomplish had they properly been able to play out their youth careers will also never be answered. Surely, more titles would have been added to their list — but the COVID pandemic’s cancellation of most sports over much of the last two years leaves that a mystery.
For Ottawa’s greatest-ever graduating girls soccer class, what’s left is what lies ahead.
Read our Stars of the Month feature (ADD LINK) for the list of girls that make up Ottawa’s G.O.A.T. soccer class.