Western, Queen’s return to Final Four along with fresh faces in Ottawa and McMaster
London, Ont. – Just four teams remain in their journey toward achieving a championship season, and the quartet – Ottawa, Queen’s, Western, and McMaster – will venture to the home of the Mustangs to do battle in the OUA season’s final weekend. And while only two of this year’s final squads took to the field as part of last year’s festivities, all four have what it takes to top the conference’s elite this time around.
They’ve galloped their way to the No. 4 ranking in all of Canada, and after knocking off the Toronto Varsity Blues in the quarterfinals, the Ottawa Gee-Gees will aim to translate their season-long success into a banner season win. And with the talent that takes the field for the Garnet and Grey each week, they’ll have a strong opportunity to claim their first OUA banner since 2014.
The OUA’s top-ranked offence put home 41 goals this season, while peppering the opposition with over 17 shots per game. Their offensive prowess is done with a team-first focus, as they also pace the conference with 25 assists. Helping maintain these electrifying numbers and bringing Ottawa into the final four weekend as the hottest team in the OUA (with eight straight wins to end the regular season) is a pair of top-five point-getters.
Emma Lefebvre (Kingston, Ont.), who netted both goals in her side’s quarterfinal win, tied atop the ranks with 18 points, while teammate Mikayla Morton (Courtice, Ont.) wasn’t far behind with 12. The dynamic duo spearheaded a veteran team that has also seen valuable contributions from forward Delaney Rickert-Hall (Waterloo, Ont.), who poured in nine points on the year, and midfielder Katherine Bearne (Halifax. N.S.), who added seven goals to her impressive OUA resume. It’s not just a talented group up front; however, as they also have one of the best in net.
Margot Shore (Ottawa, Ont.) ranked fourth in the OUA with a 0.58 GAA, while also finishing in the top-10 with a .829 SV%. Giving up just six goals in her 13 matches, it has been easier said than done to put one past her, and with the all-star worthy play of Kayla Da Costa-Pacheco (Gatineau, Que.) and Lauren Da Luz (Coquitlam, B.C.) in front of her, the Gee-Gees boast one of the most well-rounded rosters anywhere in the country. The group will have their eyes on the prize from the get-go this weekend, and they’ll start their quest for the cup against the McMaster Marauders.
For the first time since 2012, the McMaster Marauders will be part of the conference’s final weekend, and they earned their spot in the final four after scoring a high-caliber win over Guelph in the quarterfinals. The Marauders started off strong in their match with the West Division winning Gryphons, with Amy Froome (Komoka, Ont.) finding the back of the net in just the 10th minute. It took nearly 70 minutes before Guelph would even up the score, but Stephanie Roberts (Ottawa, Ont.), the conference’s leading goal-scorer, did what she does best with a tally in the 90th minute to seal the win for McMaster.
For the Marauders to continue their string of success into their semifinal clash with Ottawa, they’ll need to see similar output from their offensive leader and first-team all-star. The fourth-year striker anchored the Hamilton squad’s fifth-ranked goal-scoring total, but she didn’t do it alone. Nine of her teammates found the score sheet as well, led by three from Jade Smith (Oshawa, Ont.) and rookie Megan Mamela (Brantford, Ont.). The former finished second in team scoring, behind Roberts’ 16, but it wasn’t just about the offence when it comes to the team’s success.
In addition to being fifth in scoring, they are also fifth in terms of goals against, surrendering an average of just 0.81 per contest. Three different keepers combined for six clean sheets, but it was Juliana Hifawi (Mount Albert, Ont.) who buoyed the trio of sophomores. In 10 starts, the second-year goaltender notched 33 saves and a save percentage of .767. Combine that stingy play with the experience of the veteran defensive crew in front of her, a group that includes seniors Carling Goold (Oakville, Ont.) and all-star Mary Craig (Toronto, Ont.), it will be a dual-threat squad that enters their semifinal clash with the Gee-Gees.
The other semifinal sees a repeat of last year’s penultimate match, as the Western Mustangs will do battle with the Queen’s Gaels for a chance to go for gold this weekend. It was an evenly played match a year ago, one that saw a shot-differential of just one, and it wasn’t until extra time that a winner was decided. If it was up to Western, they’d hit repeat and do it all again this year to once again claim their spot in the finals for the second straight season.
After falling out of the West Division’s second seed in the regular season’s final weekend, Western turned in back-to-back wins in the postseason, with their latest coming against the very team that overtook them in the final games. It took a high-scoring effort to get past the York Lions, and it got off to a satisfying start just three minutes in. Katrina Giantsopolous (Newmarket, Ont.) scored the opener, as well as the team’s second goal to give Western the 2-0 lead after just 30 minutes. York responded with a pair of their own, but in the 60th minute, Morgan Asling’s (Kelowna, B.C.) second helper of the game set up Anna Larkin (Ottawa, Ont.) for the game-winner to give Western another shot at the provincial banner.
Like a season ago, they will turn to a veteran squad to lead them to glory, a group that includes third-year keeper Megan Girardi (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.). A stingy 0.40 goals-against average put her second in the conference, while her nine shutouts tied her atop the conference. A tidy .844 SV% helps to round out her impressive resume from the season, an effort that led her team to a 9-2-5 record on the year. And as strong as the Mustangs were at keeping the ball out, they were just as adept at putting up goals against the opposition.
With Giantsopoulo’s seven goals leading the way, the purple ponies poured in 35 tallies on the year. Former All-Canadian Julia Crnjac (Mississauga, Ont.) added another solid campaign to her decorated career, scoring four times for Western, while 2017 Rookie of the Year and two-time all-star Giulia Geraci (Bradford, Ont.) added five goals and nine points, tying for the team lead with the latter.
If the Mustangs want to make that repeat trip to the gold medal match, they’ll need to do so against the country’s ninth-ranked squad. As a top-10 team, the Queen’s Gaels have put their best foot forward on the pitch this season to the tune of an 8-3-5 record and should be evenly matched with their semifinal foe, especially with the East Division MVP at the helm.
Jenny Wolever (Toronto, Ont.) has been a force each time she takes to the pitch, and as the co-leader in points (18), she will surely be looking to play a factor in her semifinal’s final score. She has done just that all season long, factoring in to almost 37% of the team’s point production. Ranking third in the OUA in both goals (34) and assists (15), the Gaels are as dynamic as they come up front, with sophomore forwards Christie Gray (Vancouver, B.C.) and Alexandra Doane (Brookside, N.S.) also chipping in with 11 goals combined.
While Anna Stephenson (Vancouver, B.C.) played a critical role in stopping the opposition in their tracks, posting four clean sheets on the year, the Tricolour also boast one of the most talented defence corps in the conference. Leading the way on that front are second-team all-stars Jamie Foot (North Vancouver, B.C.) and Alicia Levy (Mississauga, Ont.), who along with the capable two-way play of their teammates in the midfield, have helped establish Queen’s as one of the better defensive squads in the OUA with a 0.84 goals-against average.
All four of the remaining squads have the potential to claim banner season glory, with some of the most dynamic defences and high-octane offences across the board. To open the final four, which will take place on Mustangs Field in London, the Ottawa Gee-Gees will battle the McMaster Marauders at 3:00pm and the Queen’s Gaels will take on the Western Mustangs at 7:00pm in semifinal action on Friday. The winners of these respective matches will then meet in Sunday’s gold medal match before then venturing on to the U SPORTS Championship the following weekend.
For those who cannot make it out to Western University for the banner season finale, you can catch all the action live on oua.tv or via the oua.tv app on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, or Roku.