By Ottawa Sportspage, for OSU Force Academy
Ottawa South United Soccer broke ground once again in 2019 as the club continued to find new heights in its 17th season.
“It was a great year. We had a lot of success on and off the field,” OSU President Bill Michalopulos said to a sold-out crowd of 600+ at the club’s annual competitive banquet.
“We always try to align with the original vision for the club – to be the best club in Ottawa, the best club in Ontario, and the best club in Canada.”
The Force Academy under-17 girls were the big history-makers this season, winning an unprecedented triple crown – the Ontario Player Development League Cup, the overall OPDL league, and the season-ending Charity Shield.
At every age group, each OSU OPDL entry earned a winning record in the province’s top youth high-performance league.
The Force U15 boys were OPDL Cup champions. They were also runners-up in OPDL league play, as were OSU’s U14 girls and boys, while the U18 boys were Ontario Cup winners.
A testament to the club’s depth was OSU’s regional success in addition to the top sides’ prowess provincially.
OSU teams earned East Region Soccer League titles at many levels (league titles in U13 girls & boys, and U16 & U17 boys, plus a U13 girls’ Cup crown), and had an equal number of runner-up finishes.
The lifetime list of OSU players moving on to university/college programs approached 250 thanks to the 2019 graduating class:
- Philomene Sully-Bitsi, Algonquin Thunder
- Marie-Pierre Beaudoin, Bishop’s Gaiters
- Madeleine Albright, Carleton Ravens
- Mikayla Smith, Carleton Ravens
- Selena Moussa, Carleton Ravens
- Daniel Assaf, Carleton Ravens
- Vittoria Gallivan, Ryerson Rams
- Luca Nicastro, St. Bonaventure Bonnies
- Tehya Blake, St. Francis-Xavier X-Women
- Julia Bailey, Memphis Tigers
- Raphaël Rowley, Montréal Carabins
- Tia Lecox, Winnipeg Wesmen
- Kayza Massey, West Virginia Mountaineers
- Keenan Foley, Columbia Lions
Progressing into the professional side of the game were Halifax Wanderers striker Zoom Langwa and Aleksandr Guboglo, who joined the Montreal Impact Academy.
The extensive individual and collective successes are impressive, Michalopulos underlined, but when it really hit home for him was when the Canadian women’s national team was in town and they called up OSU to setup a match and help them prepare.
“To me, that says a lot about how far the club has gotten,” Michalopulos illustrated, saluting the club’s spirit to continue pushing forward and to innovate, like in its partnership with the French Catholic School Board and Jean-Robert-Gauthier elementary school, and receiving one of the select few first national youth club licences from Canada Soccer.
“We’re very proud of that,” added OSU’s President since the club’s inception in 2003.
There are many pieces to the puzzle that make OSU thrive, Michalopulos noted, including the best players and coaches, technical director Paul Harris and general manager Jim Lianos, staff, coordinators, team managers, parents and volunteers, including dedicated individuals like long-time treasurer Stephen Campbell.
‘Inspiring community’ drives OSU soccer success
When Michalopulos welcomed his brother from Greece for the first time in 20 years, he was proud to show off the club’s home at George Nelms Sports Park.
“It was a beautiful evening. The sun was about to set, no wind,” recounted Michalopulos, who continues to coach a young Force Academy girls’ team. “I said, ‘Aren’t you impressed with the facility?’ (which was just a farmer’s field 2 decades ago).
“After being there about 5 minutes, he goes, ‘The facility is nice, but what I’m really impressed with are the people here. I’m impressed with the community. The kids are so engaged, the coaches look engaged, and the parents look happy.’
“You know what? He’s right. That’s why we’re here. Every time I go to the soccer field, whether it’s a practice or a game, or watching another game, I feel inspired.
“And what inspires me is all the young players we have here. The energy they have and the hope that they carry for the future is incredible.
“Thank you for making our club so vibrant.”