By Jennica Klassen
The University of Ottawa women’s rugby team truly embodied the Gee-Gees name on Saturday as they came out of the gates running, dominating Sherbrooke from to start finish to win 70-0.
It was the Gee-Gees’ first game in almost two years – Quebec conference rugby officially bringing university sports action back to Ottawa for the first time since March 2020 when the Carleton Ravens men’s basketball team triumphed in town.
Just moments after kickoff, senior Alexandra Ondo scored the first try of the game, which painted an early picture of how the rest of the match would play out. Ondo and Madison Grant both scored three tries, while veterans Taylor Donato and Claire Gallagher also impressed.
The Gee-Gees missed their 2020 season due to COVID-19, but the team made sure to stay on track with a strict workout schedule as well as regular zoom meetings.
That was the key to their success in the first game back, signalled uOttawa head coach Jen Boyd.
“I think we’re three years ahead of everyone else in terms of the conversations we’ve had and who we are as a team,” she underlined.
Even during all of the lockdowns when the team was unable to be with each other physically, they never broke any connection, echoed sophomore forward Grant, and she believes that translated very well onto the field.
The stands were filled with families, students and fellow Gee-Gees athletes who were all happy to be back watching a live sporting event. Capacity was limited to 300, and all tickets sold out for the match – also the case for the Gee-Gees men’s club team, which also pounded Sherbrooke 65-0.
Ondo said it was “honestly a bit overwhelming” to finally be back playing a game again in front of hundreds of fans cheering, “but just really exciting. To actually have it happen was very heartwarming.”
During the Gee-Gees’ long stretch away from the field, the program put a particular emphasis on social justice initiatives, within the uOttawa campus and their day-to-day lives.
At the home opener, the team wore orange shirts, knelt during O Canada, and made a territory acknowledgement, to raise awareness and show support for Indigenous children and communities.
“As a team we decided to take on these things for us not to just be a rugby team,” explains Ondo, who hails from Gatineau like Team Canada player and social justice advocate Pam Buisa. “New people coming into the program have to know that we don’t just expect rugby from them, we expect more.”
The team wants to help create a safe environment for everybody so they can always feel comfortable being themselves. They said they view themselves as more as a family than as a team.
The Gee-Gees certainly looked strong and in unison in their opener, which should serve them well for their short 6-game season playing in rotation with Sherbrooke, Concordia and 2019 national-champion Laval, their next opponents on Sept. 18 at home at Matt Anthony Field.
The Carleton Ravens women’s rugby team also played on Saturday, falling 17-5 to the Montréal Carabins in their return to the pitch at the Ravens Perch. Mckenna Taylor scored the Ravens’ try as they began their team’s 10th anniversary season.
Local university teams competing in Ontario University Athletics begin play next weekend. Carleton vs Queen’s football on Sept. 18 will be the first OUA contest back in town. The Ravens will also host the men’s soccer nationals from Nov. 18-21.
Ontario Colleges Athletic Association sports will also return this fall, but Algonquin College’s soccer and rugby teams will remain sidelined.