By Dan Plouffe,
They’ve got a dozen in the bag from 12 games, but the Ottawa Fury promise they won’t be satisfied until their win total reaches 16 after completing a perfect 12-0 W-League regular season with a 5-0 drubbing of the Toronto Lady Lynx this past weekend at the Algonquin College Soccer Complex.
“It’s amazing,” smiled Fury leading scorer Mallory Outerbridge, who scored three first-half goals before coach Dom Oliveri took mercy on their Toronto foes and pulled his star striker for the second half. “It’s the best feeling ever to know that we’re the first Ottawa Fury team to have an undefeated season.”
Outerbridge, who carries an unmistakable fire in her eye when she has the ball near the opposition net, won the W-League scoring race by six goals with her total of 17 in 12 matches. Melissa Busque and Jessica Shufelt also tallied for Ottawa in the victory, while Jasmine Phillips and Audrey Bernier-Larose shared the shutout to complete the sixth perfect regular season in W-League history and – most importantly in Oliveri’s view – assure the Fury of the top seed in post-season play.
“First and foremost, we get to play at home,” noted Oliveri, whose squad is undefeated in 23 consecutive home contests. “Teams have to travel here and beat us at our home park, and that’s tough to do in any sport. And it’s also big for our club and our fans.”
A main reason for the Fury’s success was being able to bring in players with the characteristics they sought for every position on the field, Oliveri added.
With just a small handful of Ottawa natives on the team’s regular roster, the Fury feature a diverse collection of players from across North America, many of whom are top NCAA performers. The out-of-towners are all provided an apartment in a small complex downtown during their summertime stay with the Fury.
“Team chemistry – that is the key ingredient to all of our success,” emphasized Outerbridge, a striker from Winnipeg who studies at Western Kentucky University. “We live together, we eat together, we hang out together. Everybody on this team is a friend of everybody else’s. There’s no cliques, nothing.”
It’s Outerbridge’s first season with the Fury W-League squad, although it’s been a long-standing desire of hers to return to the club after playing soccer in Ottawa when she was 16.
“I finally came back to where I belong,” recounted the 22-year-old. “I love everything. Ottawa is an amazing city. The coaching, the players, (owner) John Pugh is an amazing guy, so it’s awesome to be here.”
Ottawa to host conference championship weekend
The Lady Lynx, who fell to Ottawa 1-0 on a goal in the 92nd minute of their first meeting, will have a shot at redemption when they take on the Fury in the 3 p.m. Central Conference semi-final on Saturday, July 23 at Algonquin.
Laval and Quebec City meet in the other semi-final at 6 p.m., while the two winners will battle on Sunday, July 24 at 3 p.m. for a trip to Seattle July 29-31 for the W-League final-four tournament that unites the division champions from across North America.
“From day one we’ve talked about nothing other than winning the championship,” said Oliveri, the first-year head coach. “It’s great to have regular season success, but at the end of the day, you measure success in championships.
“The label we’ve got over the years is the best team not to have won. We’re very conscious of that and we’re trying to do our best to get that first championship for Ottawa.”
The Fury, winners of five of the past eight conference titles, produced numerous great teams in recent years, but none have completed that last step to a United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League crown.
“There’s always a first for everything,” Outerbridge noted. “This is the year, we’re hoping. We’re going to play as hard as we can, and that’s all we can ask for.”