The defending national champion Ottawa Gee-Gees went down to the wire in the U SPORTS quarterfinal on Thursday night, eking out a last-minute 26-24 over the host Acadia Axewomen.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Tori Wyman's short plunge knotted the score at 24 apiece and RSEQ Rookie of the Year Claire Gallagher's convert provided the margin of victory, advancing the Gee-Gees to Friday's semifinal.
Michaela Haley's two tries powered the Gee-Gees, who also got a try from Player of the Game Ellen Murphy. Gallagher contributed three converts, none more critical than the accurate boot that split the uprights in the dying seconds of a splendid quarterfinal match.
Maddie Mackenzie, with a pair, Alysha Corrigan and Gillian Bergsma, scored tries for Acadia Corrigan also added two converts. Mackenzie's second try with nine minutes remaining in regulation put the host club in front. Ottawa, unbeaten and top-ranked in the country throughout the 2018 campaign, dug down when it was needed most against the eighth-ranked Axewomen.
The loss was heartbreaking for Acadia, which played arguably its finest game of the year and at times dominated the action against a squad that surrendered an average of 7.3 points per match during the regular season. Trailing 19-5 only five minutes into the second half, Acadia mounted a comeback, tallying a pair of tries six minutes apart and adding another seven minutes later to assume a 24-19 advantage as a steady rain began to fall on Raymond Field.
Determined not to be conquered, Ottawa battled back, pushing, grinding, moving the ball in small but significant increments. With time winding down, Wyman dove under a wall of Acadia players to score the decisive try. Gallagher, her left foot good on three of four convert attempts, drilled the biggest one of her young career.
"I knew there was a lot of pressure, but with my team behind me whether I made it or not, we would've come back and pulled through," said Gallagher. "That was one of the toughest games we've had all season, we're going to use it tomorrow to drive us to play a tough game against Guelph and hopefully further into the tournament.
Wyman and Gallagher, the two heroes in the final minutes, are perfect examples of this year's team. One a fourth-year player, and first time All-Canadian, the other a rookie just at the start of a promising young career, both equally as important on the roster.
"You can't even write a story about this," said Gee-Gees head coach Jen Boyd. "An 18-year-old kicks the biggest kick of her life with hundreds of people screaming at her. You can't make this up."
"We're really fortunate that we attract blue collar kids that want to work harder than anyone else. There are no stars on this team, we're just a bunch of people that want to work really hard and care a lot about each other, and sometimes that's all you need."
The Gee-Gees move on to the semifinals against Guelph on Friday at 6:00 p.m. ET
OTT 14-12: 26
ACA 5-19: 24
OTT – Michaela Haley try (Claire Gallagher convert) 4th
OTT – Michaela Haley try (Gallagher convert) 8th
ACA – Maddie Mackenzie try 17th
OTT – Ellen Murphy try 40th
ACA –Alysha Corrigan try (Corrigan convert) 47th
ACA -Gillian Bergsma try (Corrigan convert) 53rd
ACA – Maddie Mackenzie try 60th
OTT – Tori Wyman try (Gallagher convert) 69th
Players of the game
OTT: Ellen Murphy
ACA: Gillian Bergsma
- via U SPORTS with files from uOttawa Sports Services.