Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week across Canada West, the OUA, RSEQ and the AUS.
Gee-Gees begin a big season by besting Ridgebacks on a late penalty
The U SPORTS women’s soccer regular season started in the RSEQ and OUA conferences this week, and there were a lot of eyes on the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Gee-Gees are the defending OUA and U SPORTS champions, and they’ve been selected to represent Canada and U SPORTS in the inaugural FISU University World Cup – Football (which will take place in Jinjiang, China from Nov. 21-Dec. 1). Despite the pressure, though, Ottawa started well Saturday with a 1-0 road victory against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. That was a hard-fought win for the Gee-Gees, though, and one that only came thanks to an 83rd-minute penalty.
It’s not particularly surprising that a clash between Ottawa and Ontario Tech wound up close, as those two squads have combined for the last five OUA East titles. Three of those were won by the Gee-Gees, but the Ridgebacks claimed two. And while Ottawa’s 14-1-1 OUA regular-season record last year was significantly better than Ontario Tech’s 7-5-4 mark, the Ridgebacks have high hopes of their own this year and put up a good challenge Saturday. The Gee-Gees only recorded one more shot on goal (nine to eight), but they did manage to get the goal and the win.
No one was able to generate much offence in the first half Saturday, but Ottawa had a good chance to break through in the second half when fourth-year midfielder Jennifer Rowe hit the crossbar. The rebound fell to Gee-Gees’ first-year defender Trinity Esprit, but her shot was saved by Ontario Tech keeper Alicia Chisholm. And there was no actual scoring until first-year Ottawa striker Soumaya Bouak was pulled down in the box in the 83rd minute; that led to a penalty, and fifth-year defender Thea Nour was able to capitalize.
That strike adds to what’s been a great year for Nour. She was named an all-star at the national championships last fall, she was picked to represent Canada in the Summer Universiade in July, and she and the Gee-Gees will be representing Canada again in November. She said afterwards she took her time picking her spot, and she was thrilled to get a win in her final season opener at the U SPORTS level.
"Especially with it being my last season opener, it felt good to get a win. Of course you feel the pressure when you have take the shot that late in the game. I try to take some extra time and focus on putting the ball in the net."
The Gee-Gees are next in action at home Wednesday against their cross-town rivals, the Carleton Ravens. It will be the first time those teams have faced off since 2017, and it should be an interesting one, as Carleton went 7-3-6 last season and finished third in the OUA East.
Elsewhere in U SPORTS women’s soccer, the defending RSEQ champion Montreal Carabins started their year with an 11-1 home win over the Sherbrooke Vert & Or Wednesday, then added a 2-0 road win against the Bishop’s Gaiters Friday. The AUS and Canada West regular seasons begin next week.
Bisons down No. 4 Huskies 43-19
The U SPORTS football regular season began last week for OUA, RSEQ and AUS teams, but Canada West action started this week, and it produced some remarkable results. Chief amongst those was the unranked Manitoba Bisons’ 43-19 home win Friday over the No. 4 Saskatchewan Huskies, which was fueled by seven turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles and two turnovers on downs) that produced 27 points.
Shae Weekes and Austin Balan each recorded interceptions for the Bisons against the defending Hardy Cup champion Huskies, while Chris Larsen, Julian Luis and Cole Adamson added fumble recoveries for Manitoba. Weekes’ interception was particularly important, as he picked off Saskatchewan quarterback Mason Nyhus on the Bisons’ nine-yard line inside the final two minutes of the first quarter. Manitoba was only up 7-3 at that point, so a Huskies’ touchdown could have made the game look rather different.
Instead, the Bisons were able to get off a punt and force the Huskies back to midfield. Then, Balan came up with another interception, and Manitoba put together a drive of their own, capped off by a 58-yard touchdown run from Michael Richott. That helped the Huskies put up a 27-9 halftime lead, and they never looked back.
Elsewhere in U SPORTS football, there may be some further changes in the Top 10 after this week.
The No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or had a bye on the RSEQ schedule, while the No. 2 Western Mustangs host the Queen’s Gaels in OUA action Monday. The No. 5 Calgary Dinos beat the Alberta Golden Bears 41-31 on the road Friday, while the No. 6 McMaster Marauders bested the No. 9 Ottawa Gee-Gees 35-22 at home Sunday. The No. 7 StFX X-Men lost 32-19 on the road to the Bishop’s Gaiters in AUS action Saturday, while the No. 8 Carleton Ravens lost 37-20 at home to the Guelph Gryphons Sunday and the No. 10 UBC Thunderbirds fell 46-16 at home to the Regina Rams Saturday.
Gryphons begin season with 49-12 win over Marauders
The Guelph Gryphons’ women’s rugby team had a great season last year, going 8-0 in OUA regular-season play, winning their third-straight OUA title, and then finishing second (to the StFX X-Women) at the national championships. And they kicked things off well again this year, downing the McMaster Marauders 49-12 Saturday. Brodie Schmidt led the way for Guelph with two tries, while Marissa Themeles, Amara Hill, Hannah Beaumont, Nerine Hill, Natalie Armatage, Talia Hoffman and Julia Schell all added single tries.
Elsewhere in U SPORTS women’s rugby, the reigning RSEQ champion and national third-place finisher Ottawa Gee-Gees were held to a 22-22 draw against the Sherbrooke Vert & Or in RSEQ action Sunday. Their next match comes Saturday against the Laval Rouge et Or, who beat the Carleton Ravens 52-0 this Saturday. Meanwhile, Canada West and AUS teams will begin their campaigns this coming weekend.
No. 5 Thunderbirds see a draw and a loss
The U SPORTS men’s soccer season kicked off this weekend in the RSEQ and OUA conferences (Canada West action continued following its beginnings last week), and one of the top five teams in the year’s first rankings had a particularly rough weekend on the road. That would be the No. 5 UBC Thunderbirds, the reigning Canada West champions. UBC got off to a good start with two wins last week, but drew 1-1 against the No. 9 Thompson Rivers Wolfpack Saturday before falling 2-0 to the UBC Okanagan Heat Sunday.
It also wasn’t a great weekend for the No. 4 York Lions, the defending OUA champions. They were held to a 0-0 home draw Saturday against the Guelph Gryphons. Elsewhere, the No. 2 (defending RSEQ champions and national silver medalist) Montreal Carabins started their season with a 1-0 win over the Sherbrooke Vert et Or Wednesday, while the No. 3 Carleton Ravens began with a pair of road wins, beating the Trent Excalibur 1-0 Saturday and taking down the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks 2-1 Sunday.
Social media posts of the week
UBC found better luck against NCAA competition in women’s soccer, with a 2-0 win over the Division II Western Washington Vikings Thursday in front over 3,000 fans.
In other games against NCAA competition this weekend, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues’ women’s field hockey team hosted the Cornell Big Red for a pair of games Friday and Saturday. And while they fell 2-0 Friday, they picked up a nice 1-0 win Saturday:
And in other news for the Varsity Blues, quarterback Clay Sequeira threw for 455 yards and six touchdowns (plus ran for another 108 yards) in a 54-26 win over Windsor on OUA action Sunday, then credited his coaches:
In international news, the Canadian senior men’s basketball team fell 108-92 to Australia Sunday in their opening game of the FIBA World Cup, despite leading 77-76 after three quarters. Carleton alums Phil Scrubb and Thomas Scrubb had nine and eight points respectively, while Acadia alum Owen Klassen had four points and three rebounds. Canada is back in action Wednesday morning against Lithuania:
And in other international news, the Canadian senior men’s 15s rugby team has plenty of Canadian university connections, and they’re close to heading to the Rugby World Cup in Japan (which begins Sept. 20). They played a warm-up match against the BC Rugby All-Stars Friday, winning 45-13.
Andrew has been covering university sports in Canada since 2005 at outlets such as The Queen's Journal, The CIS Blog, and Yahoo Canada, where he also served as the editor of the Canadian football blog 55-Yard Line. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from Queen's University with a major in history, and currently works as a staff writer and editor for Awful Announcing and The Comeback.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBucholtz