Ranked #1 in Canada, the Gee-Gees women’s soccer team has outscored opponents 40-1 en route to a 12-0-1 record. Photo: Dan Plouffe
By Cory Correia
As November comes closer and the weather gets colder, sports teams around Ottawa will be moving indoors; however, one team will likely be outdoors a bit longer if the status quo persists.
With a 12-0-1 record and only three games left in the season, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team are set to storm into the Ontario University Athletics playoffs and make a claim for the top prize and a berth into the national championships, due to be held in warmer parts Nov. 8-11 in Victoria, B.C.
The Gee-Gees have been one of the strongest sides in Ontario for almost two decades now under the guidance of head coach Steve Johnson. They’ve won six provincial crowns along the way (the last one coming in 2006), and have one national title to their credit from 1996.
It’s been a bit of a drought in terms of championship wins in recent years, although there’s definitely a major buzz about this year’s squad.
Coming off a bronze medal win at last year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships in Montreal, the Gee-Gees have conceded only one goal all season en route to their undefeated mark. That’s earned them the distinction of being ranked atop the CIS top-10 poll of Canadian women’s university soccer teams, for the first time since October 2007.
Second-year Gee-Gee Pilar Khoury, an Ottawa native, believes the squad is ready to take the next step to the top of the podium after last year’s experience.
“We were very satisfied with the way we played, but we took some teams lightly and some teams not, but this year we just decided that we are going to go all out every game,” says the striker with Gloucester Hornets roots. “We learned from the mistakes from last year and we kind of just build on that. We have goals that we want to get to by the end of the season, and it’s just step by step. Everything is working so far.”
Fresh off winning the Ottawa Fury club’s first-ever North American W-League title this past summer, veteran Ottawa U defender Gillian Baggott is in the midst of her final season as a Gee-Gee and would love to cap it off with a title.
“I’ve had a great experience from the first day I walked in, and nothing would be better then to end on a big win,” smiles the communications student who possesses plenty of offensive flair despite her sweeper role. “And we’ve been doing so well so far, so I really couldn’t ask for anything more from my teammates and coaches.”
Coach Johnson has been pleased with the team’s work, highlighting strong play on both sides of the ball en route to a 40-1 total goal differential.
Team speed springs GGs to front of pack
Comparing last year’s bronze medal team to his current group, Johnson maintains that the 2011 squad “was probably a harder team to play against in terms of physicality, but I think this year’s team moves the ball a little bit quicker, and it makes it difficult for the other team to have as much of the ball as we do.”
As is usually the case, born and bred Ottawa players make up the majority of the Gee-Gees’ roster. On top of Baggott and Khoury, some of the other key local contributors include former Nepean Hotspur Lili Wong, former Hornet Chelsea Lanos and former Cumberland Cobra Julia Francki, who Johnson plucked right from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School where he teaches.
“I think we’ve got more local players than any Gee-Gee team,” Johnson remarks. “And it’s probably because that’s where I spend a lot of my time recruiting, looking at the local kids and trying to find the best ones to come in and try and contribute to our program.”