By Keaton Hills
They’ve got firepower and proven defence, but the coach of the defending Ontario-champion and national bronze medallist women’s soccer squad says building chemistry was his University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’ no. 1 need heading into their 1 p.m. season opener Saturday against Trent at Matt Anthony Field. That wasn’t anything a little team trip to the cottage couldn’t fix though.
Gee-Gees head coach Steve Johnson’s 2023 lineup is missing several graduates from last year along with a number of new faces, so he invited the whole team to his cottage in Quebec where the players had a chance to bond while swimming, cooking and for some, camping out in tents.
Johnson believes his team has the ability to match or even exceed its performance from last year, but he knows it won’t be easy.
“I want us to really try and be the best version of ourselves that we can be,” underlines the Gee-Gees’ coach of 30 years. “We have got the potential to be challenging for another provincial title, but I think it will take maybe an even bigger and better effort than last year.”
With many strong players back, Johnson believes his team can be even more deadly on set pieces this season.
Reigning U Sports player of the year Cassandra Provost returns to lead the attack along with Soumaya Bouak, Nibo Dlamini and Katie Brzozowski, while uOttawa has also added conference all-star Jenna Matsukubo from Queen’s and rookie Sabrina Mangiaracina, a two-time Ontario Player Development League U17 goal-scoring champion from Ottawa South United Soccer Club.
Juliann Lacasse and Cassidy Joslin combined to post 10 clean sheets in 15 matches en route to the Ontario title last season, while veterans Maya Smith and Adriane Devlin anchor the back line.
Defender Devlin isn’t shy about her expectations for her senior season.
“I want us to win everything,” she indicates. “I want us to do as good as we can and go to nationals again this year. I want to win it all. It’s my last year.”
The two games Devlin is most looking forward to this season are rivalry games when the Gee-Gees host Queen’s on Sept. 24 and Carleton (which enjoyed a strong 8-3-1 season in 2022) on Oct. 7.
In between those two Sundays comes the highlight of the fall U Sports regular season schedule when Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens football teams meet in the annual Panda Game on Oct. 1 at TD Place.
Football is one of the fall university sports already underway, with most kicking off this weekend. The Gee-Gees won their football season opener 29-10 over Waterloo, while the Ravens had a bye week before taking on Laurier this Sunday.
Football the Gee-Gees’ soccer kickoff, the uOttawa women’s rugby team will take the field at Matt Anthony for a 4 p.m. contest against reigning conference-champion Laval. The rugby women were national bronze medallists last season as well and will look to keep their remarkable run of seven consecutive Canadian podiums alive this season.
The Ravens’ men’s soccer team is the other traditional threat in recent years to make some noise on the national stage, while Carleton’s rugby women have been on the rise, and the uOttawa and Carleton cross-country running teams round out the local entries on the U Sports fall calendar.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.