Oshawa, Ont. – It was the two top-ranked teams that rode their talent to a gold medal showdown a year ago, and if history repeats itself, it will be two new squads that will play for gold this time around. The shuffling of seeds just goes to show that the level of skill heading to Vaso’s Field in Oshawa, Ont. this weekend for the 2019 OUA Lacrosse Championship is second-to-none, and if the Queen’s Gaels want to double down on their winning ways from a year ago, they’ll need to do so against plenty of contending squads that have their eyes on the prize.
After entering last year’s OUA championship as a top seed and executing a winning formula throughout the weekend, the Gaels will enter as the East Division’s No. 2 seed in their quest to repeat. Losses to both of this year’s division-topping teams kept Queen’s from defending their title from a similar position, but after capping off their golden finish a year ago with a closely contested 11-10 victory over Laurier, the Gaels can turn to their title-winning experience to guide them to success this weekend.
With golden aspirations in tow, the Gaels can certainly turn to the experience and skill of the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Annie Lloyd (Orillia, Ont.), who is once again leading the Tricolour’s offence. Just a few days ago, the decorated midfielder capped off her coach-driven campaign with a six-goal outing against Toronto, and if more of the same is on the horizon come Friday, the Gaels second straight banner could be well within reach.
Another conference award-winner will be suiting up alongside Lloyd as well, as 2018 Rookie of the Year Jordan Kummer (Orillia, Ont.) has picked up right where she left off after her debut efforts with the Kingston squad and adds another level of talent from the midfield position, which will certainly come in handy against the loaded field of nine additional contenders.
The team that fell to Queen’s in the gold medal match, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, are ready to claim a podium position once again, but they recognize that they’ll need to play their game to make that happen after an up and down coach-driven campaign.
“Heading into the OUA championship, our expectations are that the team remain focused on our goal, play hard, and stay supportive of each other,” said new head coach Erica Shortt. “As long as we play our game, it will be a great OUA tournament for Laurier lacrosse.”
A big part of that strong Laurier lacrosse output is Rose Williams (Elora, Ont.), who captains the purple and gold. The fourth-year attacker netted 33 goals and 16 assists in eight games played for Laurier leading up to the championship, with some of this damage coming even when she was double or triple-teamed. Her calm demeanor is a big part of the Laurier offence, but Williams definitely has support down the lineup.
The talented cast also consists of second-year midfielder Abby Clayton (Fergus, Ont.), who has played the centre position with great skill this season. In 11 games played, Clayton has racked up 41 draw wins, seven caused turnovers, seven ground balls, and 22 clears, while also adding nine goals and five helpers. Her fierce and determined play spans both sides of the ball, and her never-give-up attitude will be a big asset if the Hawks want to soar to another podium finish.
Rounding out the podium at last year’s event were the Trent Excalibur, but head coach Tori Wasson is confident that the top seed in the East division has the pieces to go all the way this time around. “The athletes that won a championship their first year are now fourth years and they have been working toward this moment for the last three seasons. We are very excited to put it all together this weekend.”
One such fourth-year player is Leah Michel (Courtice, Ont.) and the 2016 Rookie of the Year has been an offensive force for the green machine throughout her time with Trent. Leading up to the championship, Michel has tallied 38 goals and 11 assists in 13 games played for the Excalibur, but her success is as much due to her hard work and dedication off the field as it is on it.
The veteran won’t go at it alone; however, as Trent sees eight players on the roster who have netted at least 10 goals for the season. One of these individuals has been finding the back of the net at an incredible pace in her debut campaign, as Avery Digiorgio (Whitby, Ont.) has compiled 40 goals and 10 assists in her 13 games played. Her skill on both sides of the ball have showcased a confidence that goes well beyond her years and there is plenty of excitement to see Digiorgio and the entire Excalibur squad take on this year’s championship field.
While Trent enters as the East’s No. 1 seed, their counterparts in the West reside in London, as the Western Mustangs will take their top-seeded squad to this year’s championship. The team did not drop a game during the coach-driven schedule, so they will surely be brimming with confidence this weekend. Not only will they be confident, but also driven to improve on last year’s results, because despite bringing home a title as recently as two seasons ago, the ‘Stangs finished a surprising fifth at the 2018 edition.
Should Western want to once again reach the podium, they’ll turn to a key figure in the purple and white to make it happen. Katy de Snoo (Oshawa, Ont.), a former Offensive Player of the Year, continues to be a leader with the team and will be a lynch pin in the Mustangs’ efforts to claim their eighth OUA banner in program history.
Both of these top seeds will await their opening opponents of the weekend, as their first potential foes will first need to face off in the weekend’s debut matches.
Among those teams vying for the chance to play Western are the Brock Badgers, who are bringing an experienced bunch to this year’s banner season festivities. At the heart of the St. Catharines squad is team captain Emma Mete (Welland, Ont.), who is one of Brock’s most well-rounded athletes. The attacker/midfielder is industrious both on and off the field, and will need to be a key contributor if the Badgers want to improve upon their eighth-place result from a year ago.
Just like Mete up front, fellow Badger Faith Dunford (Hamilton, Ont.) anchors the back end, and will be called upon to live up to her ‘queen of the crease’ moniker. The second-year athlete is one of the team’s most tenacious and hardworking defenders, especially when it comes to turnovers, and that gritty play will be an important piece to the Brock puzzle this weekend as they prepare to bid farewell to four graduates.
Battling Brock in the tournament’s opening tilt will be the Toronto Varsity Blues, who will counter the Badgers’ experience-laden roster with one of several fresh faces. 14 players donning the blue and white are in their first or second year of eligibility, including Rhiannon Panting (Perth, Australia). Alongside third-year Heather McDougall (Toronto, Ont.) the pair represent the team’s top two scorers from the season, putting home 45 goals between them (Panting – 25; McDougall – 20).
With Toronto and Brock competing to play Western, it will be the York Lions and Guelph Gryphons dueling for a date with Trent to close out play on Friday night. The former will enter as the fifth seed in the East, while the latter, who will turn to fourth-year attacker Erin Murray (Oakville, Ont.) and her team-high 24 goals to anchor their efforts, check in as No. 4 in the West.
Just above the Gryphons, ranked as the West Division’s third-seed and going toe-to-toe with the reigning champions in their opening match, are the Marauders.
When looking at McMaster’s championship-bound squad, it is veterans Sabrina Schindel (Toronto, Ont.) and Sophie Skillen (Mono, Ont.) that will anchor a largely young team. With this youthful movement, however, comes a higher level of skill than the Marauders have seen in quite some time. Rookies like Posy O’Keefe and Ellaraye Tobias continue to improve on their debut campaigns game-by-game, which should bode well for the Hamilton squad to improve on their result from last year.
Schindel is entering her third season as Mac’s starting goaltender, capturing an OUA all-star nod from her position – the school’s lone such honouree from a year ago. With the team captain steadying play between the pipes, Skillen will offer up a top-tier presence on offence. The junior is the Marauders’ most potent attacker and a veteran outfield player. She is expected to be the team’s leading scorer this weekend, with the maroon machine still searching for the program’s first championship.
The East Division’s third seed, meanwhile, are also the hosts of this year’s festivities, and the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks are coming in confident as they welcome their fellow contenders to Oshawa. After a disappointing showing by the Ridgebacks’ standards a year ago, they are turning to a lot of new faces to score the program’s first medal at the OUA finale. To do that, they will first need to accomplish something they haven’t done since the last time the school hosted the championship in 2014 – make it to the medal games.
One such newcomer who will be buoying those medal hopes is Nicole Martindale (Brooklin, Ont.). She has made quite an impression on the scoresheet in her first season with Ontario Tech as her 78 goals paced the team through the coach-driven schedule. Along with the rest of her Ridgebacks teammates, Martindale is excited to turn the page to the championship.
“As a team, we are really looking forward to hosting the OUA tournament this year. We have had an incredible season so far and are looking to continue it into the tournament. We are striving for a medal for the first time in school history and we have been putting in the work to make that happen.”
Should those podium aspirations become a reality for the host school, they will also turn to their second-leading scorer and fellow first-year player, Caitlyn Cote (Oshawa, Ont.), to keep making waves. The local product, one of several on the squad this year with many players coming up from the Lady Blue Knights club, capped off her impressive rookie campaign with 28 goals. Cote and company will hope that the confidence and capabilities of this entire youth movement will come together for a memorable banner season finale at home.
All 15 games of championship play will take place at Vaso’s Field in Oshawa, with the first match of the weekend hitting the field at 11:00am on Friday, October 18. Play will continue into Saturday starting at 9:00am, with the two semifinals putting a bow on the second day. Medals, then, will be doled out on the Sunday, with the bronze medal match being decided at 11:30am and the championship finale taking place at 1:30pm.