By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The UOIT women’s soccer team has yet another first to hang alongside its already numerous accolades from this past season.
For the first time in the history of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, student athletes will be representing Canada at the Summer Universiade international games.
Team captain Kylie Bordeleau and Katherine Koehler-Grassau are the lucky pair of midfielders who will be dawning the maple leaf from July 3 to 14 in Gwanju, South Korea.
They will also have a pair of familiar faces behind the bench as UOIT women’s soccer head coach Peyvand Mossavat was chosen to lead the Canadian club alongisde UOIT’s Laura Aduini.
“All my life, I’ve always been watching different Canadian teams playing on TV and everything for hockey and soccer and I always thought it would be really cool to be able to actually wear the jersey,” Koehler-Grassau said “Now that I’m going, it seems amazing. I actually can’t believe it.”
She should believe. The UOIT freshman was named the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) east region rookie of the year, OUA first-team all star and UOIT’s overall freshman athlete of the year. Her successes extend off the soccer pitch as well, earning the UOIT scholastic award for having the top GPA of all female varsity student-athletes.
The soft-spoken Ottawa native says things general revolve around the soccer field followed by time behind the desk for work in UOIT’s applied and industrial mathematics program.
“I try my hardest in everything. That’s what I do,” she says.
For Bordeleau, an OUA first-team all-star in 2014, an OUA second-team all-star in 2013 and captain of the women’s soccer team since it’s inception three years ago, her success derives from consistency.
“It’s always just kind of been not straying from what I’m used to doing, and that’s usually just working hard. I like to commit myself to consistency,” she says.
The Cambridge native also stamped her name in the UOIT record book this past season when she scored the club’s first goal at a Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship
“When it matters, I’m always there and I’m always working hard for everybody,” she says.
The tournament won’t be a new environment for Mossavat, who actually competed with the men’s team back in 1993; however it will be the first time he’ll be on the sidelines.
“To be at an international event as a head coach, leading Canada, it’s an honour, it’s overwhelming and I hope that I can get this group organized and have them compete well at the next level and hopefully we can make Canada proud,” he said.
The competitiveness of the women’s team won’t be a question for a group of Canada’s top woman, university soccer players.
The roster is filled with six national champions from Laval University, five from the University of Alberta and rounded out with players from University of Ottawa, Sherbrooke and Cape Breton.
“We have a good group and we think the next couple of weeks, if everyone stays healthy and works hard and does whatever they need to do, we can definitely do well at the competition,” Mossavat says.
Bringing in players from different teams across the country and trying to build a semblance of team chemistry can be hard for any coach, even for Mossavat, who has been in the Canadian university coaching game since 2004, previously with Ryerson and York before coming to UOIT.
However, Bordeleau and Koehler-Grassau aren’t worried after meeting with their teammates at a Toronto training camp last month.
“If you were able to see how well we meshed and how well everybody got along right off the bat, I’m not worried about that whatsoever,” Bordeleau says.
“We’re all working for the same goal,” Koehler-Grassau says. “I think if we all work together and know what we have to do, it will work out.”
An added bonus for the first-year Koehler-Grassau is the chance to play alongside many veteran players.
“They’re quicker players and older and definitely have a lot of skills so playing with them you can learn from what they do,” she says.
The trip will not be without its challenges though. While contending with strong clubs from USA, South Africa and France, there is the problem of funding.
The Universiade teams receive no funding from the Canadian Soccer Association or other sport governing bodies, which can force players to have to pay their own way. Sports Canada has chipped in and provided a small stipend for the team, but Mossavat says many players have declined the trip because they can’t afford the nearly $3,600 price tag.
“How can you do this without proper funding, without support of corporations, so our athletes aren’t going there worrying about, ‘I just paid $3,600, now where is my tuition coming from?’ Those are the challenges that are far beyond the challenges we have in terms of getting the team together so they could gel together,” Mossavat says.
The girls in red will be making the trip 10 to 12 days in advance of the start of the first kickoff in order to acclimate and adjust to the strenuous jetlag, Mossavat says. The club will also be playing a pair of exhibition games with the Japanese team.
The Gwanju games are the culmination of a historic season for the UOIT women’s soccer team, which most recently saw the club bring home the program’s first OUA medal, a bronze.