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 Michelle Beauchamp who wore the Garnet and Grey between 1996-2000. As a rookie during the Gee-Gees national championship-winning team in 1996, Beauchamp grew into a key leader for the young but successful uOttawa program, building a foundation for future successes. Beauchamp earned an Honours Bachelor of Commerce and now works for the University of Ottawa as Director, Recruitment and Admissions.
"My first year, we had a fairytale season and although we kept winning each game, we considered ourselves underdogs right until the end. After experiencing nationals for the first time, it motivated me to give my 100 per cent during the season, and to focus on my studies so I could keep playing with good grades. Soccer became a big part of my university experience, and why I treasure so much my studies at the University of Ottawa.
In all the national tournaments, I remember the pride and sometimes sorrow that was always came at the end, and how that was augmented or appeased by knowing that the result is a team effort. There was a special bond and camaraderie with the other players and coaches, they were like a second family, which I still feel to this day, whether it's with the girls I still keep in touch with, or the ones I will only see when uOttawa hosts nationals, many years later.
Nationals gave you the feeling that you have the privilege to represent your school and your province in one of the most prestigious competitions for non-professional players in Canada. At the time, the professional leagues in Canada did not exist and the only thing that was more prestigious was playing for the Canadian national team.
Since it was about 20 years ago, my memories are mainly limited to the pivotal moments or turning points in the tournaments. Some examples:
- My first championship (1996 at Dalhousie), I remember the goal we scored to tie the game that meant we made it to the gold medal final instead of the bronze final. Steve had a specific play in place for when we had just been scored on (we called it doughnut), and our forwards executed the play perfectly, allowing us to score while the other team was still celebrating the goal they had scored on us one minute prior. We caught them off guard (within the rules of the game) and this paved our way to the finals. I also remember the game-winning goal in the final game, it was in overtime, and our centre-midfielder, Danielle Vella, a breakaway and scored with minutes left in the game.
- My second championship (1997 at Laval), I remember the moment, in the gold medal game, when one of our players got called for a handball (even though the other team also had one) which led to a penalty shot against us, where we lost the game. The weather was also atrocious (intense wind and rain), making the conditions really difficult to play in. My parents and younger brother came to the championship in Quebec city in 1997. They also remember the horrible weather they had to brave to cheer us on.
- My third championship (1999 at Wilfrid Laurier), I remember the moment when our goalie got a red card and ejected from the tournament for a tackle out of the box. This completely deflated the team and we lost all our momentum and didn't qualify for any medals. The weather was also brutal, it was snowing, so I remember moments when the ball would spin on the snow, drinking hot chocolate instead of water to stay warm, and wearing many more layers of clothing than we typically would need to wear at that time of the year to play.
- My fourth championship (2000 at Acadia), I remember the moment in the gold medal game when one of our star players got a really bad concussion and had to stop playing. I think this was another moment where the team lost its steam and just couldn't get it back to win the game.
It would have made it even more memorable to have played in a nationals in Ottawa, because all of our friends and family could have come to watch and cheer. The Ottawa soccer community was growing at the time, so I think it would also have done wonders to inspire other young girls in the area to keep competing and to show them that it's possible to focus on both academics and sports, and that by doing both, you are developing even greater skills that would be beneficial for you in your future career, such as leadership, time management, confidence, teamwork, etc.
For the competing players, the city is beautiful, vibrant and our university's bilingual nature will help all players from across Canada feel welcome. Our central location makes it easy for their fans to partake and support their teams, and for our community, the central and accessible location at Gee-Gees Field makes it easy for people from across all parts of the city to support their hometown team. With a professional soccer team, two university women's varsity programs and hundreds of house league and competitive city clubs, I think there are plenty of potential fans that would be interested to watch the tournament.
I'm really happy that as an alumni and staff at the university, that I will have the chance to relive all the great memories from my time as a player, through the new generation that will represent the university proudly in November. It's about time! For a team that has had such success and talent, it's surprising that it took over 20 years to host a championship."