|Miranda Smith holds up her gold medal she earned as part of the Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team that recently won the FISU University World Cup in China. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
Talk about an encore. A year after Orléans resident Miranda Smith helped lead the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees to a national championship in her senior year, the former Gloucester Hornet and Cumberland Cobra rejoined the squad three weeks ago and played a key role in the team’s successful bid for a gold medal at the first ever University World Cup in China.
As the reigning Canadian university champions the Gee-Gees were given a wild card berth in the tournament which was held in Jinjiang, China from Nov. 21 to Dec. 1.
Eligibility was based on the previous year’s roster. So anyone who played on last year’s team was eligible to play in the World Cup regardless of whether or not they graduated last spring. Smith was one of three seniors from last year’s squad who were invited back to take part in the tournament.
“We didn’t know at first that we would be able to go if we still weren’t at the school, but when we found out I was already training with the team,” says Smith.
It was just a year ago that Smith said that winning the CIS championship was the “perfect ending” to her university playing career. Little did she know that she would be hoisting an even bigger prize 12 months later.
The Gee-Gee’s made the trip to China just two days after losing in the semi-finals of this year’s CIS Final Four. Despite the disappointment of not
being able to defend their national title, the team was able to regroup, with the addition of Smith and the others, just in time for the start of the World Cup.
The Gee-Gees opened the tournament with a 2-0 win over Donghua University on a pair of goals by Emma Lefebrve. They then went on to beat Siberean Federal University 3-0 and the
College of Asian Scolars from Thailand 4-2 to
finish at the top of the group and earn a berth in the semi-finals where they faced Beijing Normal University.
Playing in front of a hostile crowd of over 5,000 people, the Gee-Gees were able to battle their
Chinese opponents to a 0-0 draw in regulation which meant the game had to be decided in a shootout.
When Gee-Gees coach Steve Johnson asked for volunteers to join the team’s two penalty kick
specialists to round out the five shootout spots, no one immediately stepped forward until Smith
reluctantly did so.
“The last shot I took was a year ago in the semi-finals and the goalie saved it so I wasn’t overly confident, but I had taken shots in the past so it did make sense for me to take one of the shots,” recalls Smith, who blasted her attempt past the Chinese goalie and into the back of the net
after Gee-Gees keeper Margot Shore had already made a diving save on the Chinese team’s second shot.
The Gee-Gees would go to win the shootout
5-3 and advance to the final where they faced Paulista University from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
After scoring in just the second minute of the game, the Gee-Gees managed to keep the highly skilled Brazilians off the board to secure the win.
“It was really intense near the end. We defended with everything we had,” says Smith, who played the entire tournament with a partially torn ligament in her right hip. “The final five minutes seemed like a century. I was physically struggling but my teammates kept pumping me up and then when the final whistle the adrenalin kicked in and we all just started celebrating and going crazy.”
Asked what she thought made the difference in the team being able to emerge on top against their highly skilled opponents, Smith attributed their success to their character and team chemistry.
“We played with a lot of heart,” says Smith. “I was talking with someone from the Brazilian team later that night and she said that we really played like a team. Having that team chemistry is so special and not every team has it. We really play for each other.”
Besides winning the championship, the Gee-Gees also won the Fair Play Trophy for only getting two yellow cards in the entire tournament, one of which Smith picked up in the opening game.
“I got it while trying to tackle the ball, I hardly ever get yellow carded so it was funny that we would end up getting the Fair Play Award,” says Smith.
After winning the championship the Gee-Gees had to make the 36-hour trip back to Ottawa. Two days later she returned to her job at the Sport Check store in Place d’Orléans.
“It’s going to be rough,” a jet-lagged Smith predicted hours after getting off
But she has it easy, most of her teammates have to immediately transition back to reality and the prospect of final exams next week and end of semester essays.
With her university career now definitely behind her, Smith plans to continue to play soccer with the Gloucester Hornets competitive women’s team.
She also plans to continue to train with the Gee-Gees and help out the coaching staff which now has an extra incentive in trying to recruit new players.
As the reigning champions, the Gee-Gees have an automatic berth in the 2021 University World Cup where the school will get a chance to defend their title.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of
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