The University of Ottawa will host the 2018 U SPORTS women's soccer national championship November 8-11. The Gee-Gees have appeared in 13 national championship tournaments in the program's 25-year history, earning nine medals and cementing a tradition of success. Ahead of the 2018 U SPORTS championship, a group of Gee-Gees alumni reflect on their experiences at nationals, and what a home championship will mean for the program.
Today's alumni profile comes from Élise Desjardins (Smith) who wore the Garnet and Grey from 2006-2010. Desjardins, who hails from Cumberland, Ont., was a two-time OUA All-Star at midfield and a three-year team captain. Throughout her time with the Gee-Gees, Élise was involved in projects to give back to the Ottawa soccer community. She earned Academic All-Canadian status, a Master's in Human Kinetics, and was recognized at the OUA's Women of Influence event.
"Competing for a national championship was always our goal at the start of the season. We wanted to be the team to represent the OUA at nationals. It's that simple. It was always our primary motivation. In my rookie season, the Gee-Gees were coming off a silver medal at nationals – so the motivation to get back to that level and compete was significantly high. The veterans wanted to get back there for redemption.
The most enjoyable part of competing at national championships was playing teams from across the country. We got to play teams from the West, Quebec and the East. It made for very interesting competition and it was always competitive and enjoyable – no matter the outcome.
It seems to have rained every time I went to nationals so I always picture rain when I think back. But, the rain aside, my fondest memories involve playing the game – the competition level was very high and, in many cases, we were playing teams we knew nothing about. We all enjoyed travelling and the team bonding aspect of a national championship but ultimately, we were there to compete and that's what I remember the most.
I had a very positive reaction when I heard uOttawa would be hosting nationals. I think it's a great opportunity to engage alumni and engage young girls in the community. The sport of soccer is continuously growing and I think this national championship has the potential to leave a legacy in Ottawa for women's soccer.
In my third year, uOttawa hosted the OUA Championship – so we got to play at home to earn a spot at nationals. It was a wonderful experience. We played in front of family and friends and felt like the community was behind us. I can only imagine how it will feel to play in the national championship at home. It will be a great experience for the girls and, based on my experience hosting provincial championships, I can only imagine how much it will mean to the team and the University of Ottawa.
There are so many things that make Ottawa a great host city: national capital, bilingual city and bilingual school, geographic location (the rain from my experience at nationals has clearly stayed with me). I think the new facilities at uOttawa makes the school a great school to host the national championship tournament. The University is also located downtown which makes it fun and interesting for participating athletes. I look forward to seeing it all unfold!"