By Dan Plouffe
Two summers ago, Ariel Young, Emily Amano, Mollie Eriksson and Olivia Cooke all threw their red Team Ontario jackets over their Ottawa South United Force gear to celebrate the players from their club who’d been part of the provincial soccer program.
A year later, Kayza Massey joined the crew in blue as one of the first to move from the Gloucester Hornets onto an OSU Ontario Player Development League team under the clubs’ affiliation agreement.
The players’ paths have scattered all kinds of different directions since then, but the local quintet will be reunited when they compete for Team Ontario at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg.
“It’s great,” signals Amano, who, once upon a time, scored the game-winning goal to secure the U13 Ontario Cup title for OSU alongside several current Ontario teammates. “I think it’s really good representation for Ottawa, and it shows that not all talented players are from Toronto.”
Young, who will be competing in her mother’s hometown at Canada Games, is the youngest member of the bunch at age 15 on the under-18 team. The Ottawa Fury FC girls’ elite program member recently made her international debut for the Canadian U17 women’s team in China from July 12-16 in a four nations event with USA, Japan and the tournament hosts.
With a pair of Ottawa goalkeepers guarding the Ontario box, Eriksson and Massey combine to create a formidable Department of International Defence. Eriksson, born in Sweden, and Massey, adopted from Ghana, have both played for their birth countries internationally.
Massey shocked the soccer world last fall when she and the Ghanaians knocked off USA en route to a quarter-final appearance in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup.
Before competing for Sweden in summer 2016 UEFA events, Eriksson wore Canadian colours at the Danone Nations Cup. She held the distinction of being the only female goalkeeper to ever play in the global tournament for players age 10-12 (though that’s set to change this year with the addition of a girls’ division).
The 17-year-old is now the #1 goalkeeper for the West Ottawa Warriors’ new Ontario League1 entry alongside fellow Greely resident Olivia Cooke.
Cooke, 16, is 2nd in team scoring despite missing nearly as many games as she’s played. Set to play NCAA soccer at the University of South Florida come 2018, Cooke is the middle of three soccer siblings who’ve all played in the top youth provincial leagues. Their mother was a 3-time Canadian alpine ski champion.
Amano, currently a member of OSU’s 1st-place U17 Ontario Youth Soccer League team, says there remains a family feel amongst the Ottawa crew.
“We all get along really well. We all share the same passion towards soccer,” underlines Amano, headed into her senior year at Ashbury College this fall. “(Making it to Canada Games) is a great achievement. But the fact that I have some people I’ve known along the way for so many years makes it a lot better.”