OTTAWA (U SPORTS) – Miranda Smith scored the winning goal to complete the fairytale season for the Ottawa Gee-Gees, who won the U SPORTS Women's Soccer Championship with a 2-1 win over the Trinity Western Spartans.
Mikayla Morton also found the net for Ottawa, while U SPORTS Player of the Year Seina Kashima (Burnaby, B.C.) scored for the Spartans.
It was the second national title for the Gee-Gees, and their first since 1996.
After Morton opened the scoring in the 19th minute, the fifth-year Kashima responded with a brilliant strike from 25 yards out to knot the game 1-1 in the 26th minute. However, it was Smith eventually tallying the game-winner in the 64th minute.
Playing in their fifth U SPORTS final in the last seven years, the Canada West champion Spartans settled for silver for the third time in as many finals. TWU also took home silver in 2014 and 2015 after winning gold in 2012 and 2013.
This was TWU's eighth appearance in the national title bout since entering U SPORTS in 2001. Beyond their two most recent championships, the Spartans also won gold in 2004, 2008 and 2009.
A dipping free kick from Kashima was an early warning of the superstar's danger, but Ottawa keeper Margot Shore was up to the task, as she was throughout the game. A corner kick moments later was directed on goal by the Spartans Rachel Hutchinson (Cloverdale, B.C.), but it was cleared off the line by Katherine Bearne.
Shore was tested again moments later. A long shot by Amy Gartke (Edmonton) was easy pickings for the netminder. The tension was palpable at Gee-Gees Field early on, as both teams had boisterous fan contingents.
Ottawa sent the home crowd into a frenzy in the 19th minute when Morton's shot from a tight angle went through goalkeeper Rachel Sydor for the opening goal. Trinity Western had defended well, but found themselves having to play from behind.
The Spartans pulled one back in the 26th minute with an absolute screamer. Trinity Western worked the ball across the box, and Kashima's one-time shot was world class into the top corner. Shore was left with no chance, and the match was equalized.
Shore was on her toes throughout the first half. On a secondary ball in after a corner, she made a diving intervention, pulling the ball off the head of a rushing Spartan attacker. The first half ended knotted at one.
The first chance of the second half went to the Gee-Gees in the 53rd minute, when the ball skipped through to Delaney Rickert-Hall, who sliced a shot over the bar.
Ottawa retook the lead in the 64th minute with a screamer of their own. Smith controlled the ball and fired a perfect shot off the crossbar and down from 30 yards out.
The game was tight right to the end, but the Gee-Gees hunkered down and turned in a great defensive performance to clinch the win.
The victory caps off a remarkable season for the University of Ottawa, who lost one game all year, before running the table in the playoffs to capture the OUA and U SPORTS titles, the latter on their home field.
Players of the Game
Trinity Western: Seina Kashima
Ottawa: Miranda Smith
TWU Coach – Graham Roxburgh
"It's a heartbreaker only because we started so well and soccer is a funny game. We had three or four really good chances early on that were cleared off the line and then their keeper made a fantastic save. Then the momentum changed with a bit of a weird first goal, but credit to our kids because we clawed our way back into it and I thought we were really good at times. But, sometimes in big games, you need a player to step up and you can't question the quality of that winning goal. We just never really found our passing rhythm, but credit to Ottawa because they defended well.
"But it's been a great season and I'm so proud of this team. They put it all on the line over the last three or four days. It's disappointing, but sometimes that's life."
• TWU finished the year with a 17-3 overall record, including the regular season and playoffs.
• The Spartans have now earned nine U SPORTS medals in their 18 years playing at Canada's top university level.
• TWU has medalled in six of the last seven national tournaments.