Burlington, Ont. – The level of competition across the province has been as impressive as ever this year, and as a result, this season’s hardware was well-earned. From a decorated veteran leading her Guelph Gryphons to the top seed in the standings to a trio of Waterloo Warriors anchoring their upstart campaign, the OUA is pleased to announce the field hockey major award winners and all-stars from the 2019 season.
Now in her fifth season with Guelph, Katherine MacMillan (Kitchener, Ont.) has seen just about all there is to see in her decorated career. Despite being unable to play two seasons ago because of an ACL tear, the senior has come back stronger and more determined since the injury, and after her 2018 campaign that saw her take home an OUA all-star and U SPORTS All-Canadian nod, she has found another gear still in 2019.
MacMillan finished second in the conference with 12 goals and of those tallies, she managed to score the game-winner with four of them. The 2018 Gail Wilson Outstanding Contributor was also a proficient passer, racking up 12 helpers on the season as a result of her strong distribution skills and vision on the field. She demonstrated the ability to go above and beyond her two points per game average; however, as MacMillan twice netted four goals in a game this season.
The offensive juggernaut, who has been a threat from both the forward and midfield positions, also has an enviable work ethic and determination on the other side of the ball, and it is her affinity to succeed in every aspect of the game that has helped the Guelph team captain shine brightest in her fifth season with the Gryphs.
While MacMillan was prone to putting the ball in the net, Waterloo’s Marley Dowling (Waterloo, Ont.) did everything she could to keep it out, and her stingy play payed off. The OUA Goalkeeper of the Year withstood plenty of what the conference’s best had to offer, finishing her season with an average of 2.49 goals against in her 11 contests. Dowling also ranked second in the conference with a .148 save percentage.
Most importantly, the second-year netminder gave her team a fighting chance each time she stepped between the pipes. She especially demonstrated this competitiveness to close out the regular season, finishing off her campaign with an undefeated three-game stretch, including a draw against the two-time reigning champion York Lions, allowing just three goals in that span.
Another Warrior who positively represents the black and gold, both on and off the field, is this year’s Gail Wilson Outstanding Contributor – Larissa McLeod (Cambridge, Ont.) The team’s captain and leader is one of the most dedicated members of the team, putting in the work year-round, while always putting her fellow Warriors first and remaining an advocate for field hockey in the OUA and beyond.
McLeod, who has been a coach with the Guelph Cobras during the outdoor and indoor seasons throughout her university tenure, is an active member of the campus community. She is one of three Executive members that lead Waterloo’s Athletic IU Council, which is made up of representatives from each of the school’s 32 sports and functions as a leadership group on campus. She also coordinates and volunteers with Team-Up, a program that sends Waterloo varsity athletes to speak at local elementary schools on smart goal setting. Beyond her own initiatives, the fourth-year all-star also looks for ways to get the team involved in the community, which included her playing an instrumental role in the team’s participation in Fitness Feeds the Community, in partnership with the Waterloo Region Food Bank.
Certainly, McLeod is a contributor on the field – both offensive and defensively – but her extensive involvement at the school and community levels show that this year’s outstanding contributor goes well beyond the sidelines to make her mark as well.
Contributors like McLeod, Dowling, and more help execute for the Warriors game plan on the field, but the impact that head coach Maria Leahy has from the sidelines also cannot be denied. In her fifth season with Waterloo, the 2019 OUA Coach of the Year helped lead her team to their best overall campaign since 2015, a year in which they won the OUA bronze medal.
Picking up four wins and a pair of ties, the Warriors remained competitive game in and game out, even among the conference’s consistent contenders. No stranger to the university game, with Leahy also suiting up for the Warriors as a midfielder/defender (2008-2013), this year’s honouree certainly understands what it takes to succeed on the post-secondary stage. Backed by Leahy’s valuable experience and tutelage, this year’s Waterloo squad tallied an impressive 20 goals scored – their highest mark in several seasons – while their goal differential (-3) followed suit; all helping the team to an incredibly successful stretch.
Many of this year’s award winners and all-stars are veterans of the game, but the same cannot be said for Abigail Janssen (Hamilton, Ont.), who got her first taste of the university scene this season with the Queen’s Gaels. It didn’t take her long to adjust; however, as the first-year midfielder was a true standout for the Tricolour this season, earning the OUA Rookie of the Year award as a result.
Janssen proved early that she was an excellent addition to the Kingston squad, bringing intensity and an overall skill set that pushes those around her to improve. While her preferred position is right midfield, her coaches were confident in her abilities beyond that, allowing the team to utilize the versatile rookie in all locations on the field. Janssen paid them back with a pair of goals and four points on offence, as well as a dynamic demeanor on defence that should make her a key part of the Queen’s attack for years to come.
An induvial who has already made her mark on the game for several years is Denise Pelletier, who wins her fifth OUA Umpire of the Year award in the last six seasons.
After starting to umpire with the Waterloo Women’s Field Hockey Club 13 years ago, Pelletier has made multiple stops since. From success at the high school level – for which she was selected to umpire at the OFSAA championships to the OUA – to her more than decade-long tenure with the conference, the FIH rated umpire has continued her rise as one of the top game officials in Canada. She has been selected to work at multiple OUA and U SPORTS championships since coming on board in 2008 and the decorated umpire continues to help set the standard for the sport.
Also turning in productive campaigns for the respective clubs were a total of 11 all-stars, including a conference-high four from the Toronto Varsity Blues, as well as multiple honours for both Guelph and Waterloo. The York Lions and Queen’s Gaels, meanwhile, round out the award-winning contingent with an all-star nod apiece.
The complete list of 2019 OUA field hockey major award winners and all-stars is:
Major Award Winners
Most Valuable Player – Katherine MacMillan, Guelph
Rookie of the Year – Abigail Janssen, Queen’s
Goalkeeper of the Year – Marley Dowling, Waterloo
Gail Wilson Outstanding Contributor – Larissa McLeod, Waterloo
Coach of the Year – Maria Leahy, Waterloo
Umpire of the Year – Denise Pelletier
Katherine MacMillan, Guelph
Rachel Spouge, Toronto
Hilary Ziraldo, Toronto
Larissa McLeod, Waterloo
Emily Ziraldo, Toronto
Frankie St. Louis, York
Mackenzie Janzen, Guelph
Isabelle Mastantuono, Queen’s
Kayla Magarelli, Guelph
Katie Lynes, Toronto
Marley Dowling, Waterloo