Burlington, Ont. – With five teams limiting themselves to one loss or less on the year, there were no shortage of student-athletes making a case to take home some hardware after guiding their teams to such lofty success. At the heart of this year’s award-winning contingent, however, are a trio of defending champions who have made the most of their title-defence campaigns to stand out from the talent-laden pack and highlight the OUA women’s soccer major award winners and all-stars from the 2019 season.
After winning both the provincial and national championships a season ago, the Ottawa Gee-Gees were ready to run it back with much of their roster intact, and while several players made an impact on the field for the Garnet and Grey, it was East Division Most Valuable Player Mikayla Morton (Courtice, Ont.) that anchored the vaunted Gee-Gees attack during their undefeated 2019 regular season.
Morton netted a team-record 17 goals on the year to lead the OUA. The psychology major found the back of the net in 10 of her 14 games, with six of those tallies coming as game-winners, and stepped up when it mattered most with at least one goal against each of Ottawa’s fellow playoff teams in the East Division. Morton’s impressive scoring output also places her at the top of the Gee-Gees all-time leaderboard in goals per game (1.21).
Her production is the result of her consistently active presence on the pitch; always looking to put the opposing goalkeeper to the test. Her 58 shots on net led the league, but while Morton applied plenty of pressure every chance she could, it is her ability to finish, as well as produce in just about any scenario presented to her, that truly sets the all-star apart as one of the premier offensive players in the country.
While the East was highlighted by a masterful offensive producer, the West sees a dynamic and determined defender earn Most Valuable Player recognition. York’s Teni Odetoyinbo (Mississauga, Ont.), a now two-time OUA first team all-star, started all 14 games at centre back for the 8-1-5 Lions and proved to be the leader on the defensive unit that allowed just eight goals against (4th in OUA), as well as seven clean sheets on the year. The team captain’s reliability and strength on the back end is one of the key reasons for York’s success, and even though her position and style of play aren’t going to lead to her stats jumping off the page, her dominant defensive play speaks for itself.
Both of these top divisional honourees are also led by award-winning coaches, as Ottawa’s Steve Johnson and York’s Carmine Isacco have earned this year’s Coach of the Year honours for their respective divisions.
Johnson led his team to an undefeated campaign on the pitch – the seventh time he has done so during his tenure – with the reigning champions going 12-0-2 on the year. Not only did the now six-time OUA Coach of the Year led his team to their 13th division title in his 26 seasons at the helm, but he did so by guiding them to a league-best 40 goals scored compared to just four goals against (1st in OUA East Division).
The York Lions, meanwhile, are off to their first final four since 2015, which so happens to be the last time Isacco took home the OUA Coach of the Year honour. The now two-time women’s coaching standout guided the Lions to a third-place finish in the division, going without a defeat after falling to the Guelph Gryphons in their season opener. The former University of Maryland standout has been with York since 2007 – when he took over the men’s coaching duties and has since won six OUA coaching honours therein – and has been a steady presence in leading his Lions squads to prominence on the pitch, as highlighted by York’s top-10 national ranking in the final weeks of the season.
Rounding out the trio of Gee-Gees galloping their way to hardware this season is fifth-year veteran Katherine Bearne (Halifax, N.S.), who is being recognized with the Community Service Award for her contributions to her academic, as well as the soccer community, both in Ottawa and abroad. The winner of the 2018-19 University of Ottawa President’s Award was the Valedictorian for her graduating class in 219 and she is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in physics, while also turning in her fifth all-star campaign to help the Gee-Gees to a first-place finish.
The first-team all-star finishes her Gee-Gees career with 34 points in regular season play, with seven coming in 2019. Beyond her time with her school team, Bearne is also an active youth soccer coach and has previously volunteered at orphanages in Panama with a local soccer group. The 2019 Summer Universiade participant with Team Canada has also run soccer clinics at first nations reserves in the Ottawa area in the past as well, capping off what has been a well-rounded and immensely involved tenure for the decorated student-athlete.
A fellow student-athlete playing a role beyond the field in the West Division, meanwhile, is McMaster’s Claudia Continenza (Caledonia, Ont.). The senior defender showcased her leadership on the pitch while starting 13 of McMaster’s 14 matches in the regular season, but her leadership in the school community is equally as impressive.
Within the McMaster campus, the West Division’s Community Service Award winner acted as both a team representative and executive member for McMaster Athletes Care. Continenza didn’t stop there; however, as her involvement with the school also extends to her serving on the Women’s Athletic Leadership Council and volunteering for the Marauders in the Classroom mentorship program. When looking beyond campus, Continenza also passes along her passion for the sport as a volunteer soccer coach at both the high school and club levels in the community.
While the senior contingent is well represented in this year’s major award winners, a pair of newcomers have also etched their names into the history books with Rookie of the Year recognition. In the West, Cecilia Way (Victoria, B.C.) takes home the first-year honour after playing an integral role in the Gaels’ undefeated regular season. The rookie striker finished second in the OUA in goals (11), while also taking home fifth-ranked marks in both points (12) and shots (46). Her consistent play, which included at least one tally in more than half of her team’s games, made her a key figure all season long, but her immense scoring touch was highlighted in particular in a four-goal game against RMC.
On the other side, it was Guelph’s Kate Knafelc (Pelham, Ont.) scoring top marks among West Division rookies, picking up right where she left off from a decorated high school career. In her first season at the university level, she made her presence felt in a hurry, notching the game-winner in her first ever OUA appearance against the York Lions. The two-sport star in high school made soccer her focus with Guelph, which paid off to the tune of five goals and seven points in her debut campaign with the Gryphons; ranking her in the team’s top three on both fronts.
The complete list of 2019 OUA women’s soccer major award winners and all-stars is:
East Division Major Awards:
Most Valuable Player – Mikayla Morton, Ottawa
Rookie of the Year – Cecilia Way, Queen’s
Community Service Award – Katherine Bearne, Ottawa
Coach of the Year – Steve Johnson, Ottawa
West Division Major Awards:
Most Valuable Player – Teni Odetoyinbo, York
Rookie of the Year – Kate Knafelc, Guelph
Community Service Award – Claudia Continenza, McMaster
Coach of the Year – Carmine Isacco, York
East Division First Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Levanta Staggolis, Toronto
Defender – Mikaela Tierney, Ontario Tech
Defender – Jamie Foot, Queen’s
Defender – Cooper Lee, Ottawa
Midfielder – Lidia Bradau, Queen’s
Midfielder – Katherine Bearne, Ottawa
Midfielder – Tori Chia, Trent
Midfielder – Ashley Mlinaric, Nipissing
Striker – Mikayla Morton, Ottawa
Striker – Jenny Wolever, Toronto
Striker – Christie Gray, Queen’s
East Division Second Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Margot Shore, Ottawa
Defender – Trinity Esprit, Ottawa
Defender – BreAnnah Webster, Ryerson
Defender – Lauren de Jong, Nipissing
Defender – Jenna Leslie, Queen’s
Midfielder – Miranda Badovinac, Toronto
Midfielder – Maddie MacKay, Toronto
Midfielder – Brooke Pearson, Ryerson
Striker – Cecilia Way, Queen’s
Striker – Emma Lefebvre, Ottawa
Striker – Madison Logan, Nipissing
West Division First Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Megan Girardi, Western
Defender – Teni Odetoyinbo, York
Defender – Alyssa Hodgson, Guelph
Defender – Joselyn Gagliardi, York
Midfielder – Giulia Geraci, Western
Midfielder – Kalifornia Mitchell, York
Midfielder – Farkhunda Muhtaj, York
Midfielder – Vanessa Salvaggio, York
Striker – Victoria Hinchliffe, Guelph
Striker – Kiyani Johnson, York
Striker – Stephanie Roberts, McMaster
West Division Second Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Marilena Spagnolo, Brock
Defender – Lauren O’Donnell, Western
Defender – Rachel Drouillard, Western
Defender – Jacqueline Madogo, Guelph
Defender – Carling Goold, McMaster
Midfielder – Hannah Chau-Stacey, McMaster
Midfielder – Nikki Balachorek, Western
Midfielder – Danielle Sauve, Guelph
Midfielder – Sayan Ladhani, Guelph
Striker – Venessa Mazur, Guelph
Striker – Alaiyah Wilson, Waterloo