The Lady Gee Gees of the University of Ottawa formed in 2004 with hard work from Amy Richardson, Andrea Cardin, and Julie Holsworth. Building a new team, they finished last in the Canadian University Ultimate Championships (CUUC) in their first year, but they gelled quickly after that. In 2005, they finished fourth in the Canadian Eastern University Ultimate Championships (CEUUC), and they went undefeated at the CUUC before the end of the tournament was canceled due to inclement weather. In 2006, just three years into the team’s existence, the Lady Gee Gees went undefeated at CUUC to take the tournament win. With that momentum from the fall of 2006, they entered the spring 2007 UPA College Championship Series. They dominated day one of Upstate New York Sectionals in Geneva. However, the championship game was postponed because of snow, and the Gee Gees could not make it to the rescheduled game because of their exam schedules, so they missed a trip to UPA Regionals.
Ottawa stepped up its game the following year. “In 2008 (the 2007-08 school year), the University of Ottawa had a fantastic year,” said former team captain and current starter Anne Mercier. “We won the CEUUC for the first time. We did not compete at the CUUC because it was held in Vancouver. We did manage to make it out to Trouble in Vegas, one of the largest tournaments in the States that year. With 11 players, we went undefeated all weekend long, taking down teams like Wisconsin and Washington in the playoffs before blasting UCLA in the finals.”
The Lady Gee Gees cruised through 2008 UPA Sectionals and Regionals, giving up 12 total points through both tournaments. At their first appearance in UPA Nationals, in Boulder, CO, they finished respectably, tied for fifth place.
Ottawa continued to play well during the 2008-09 school year. The team won the CEUUC and the Carleton Invite in the fall, and it continued much of that success in the States in the spring. The Gee Gees finished tied for third at Pres Day and won the Centex. The UPA College Series unwound in the much the fashion as the previous year as Ottawa won Sectionals and Regionals and tied for fifth place again at Nationals.
Mercier credits a large part of the club’s progress in its short existence to the leadership of its captains over the years including Alex Benedict, Shannon Becker, Danielle Fortin, Kathryn Pohran, Sonia Komenda and Kaylee Sparks.
“The captains were responsible for all aspects of the team (from coaching team members to strategy to practice planning to taking care of all administrative duties) until the Lady Gee Gees started to have coaches in the spring of 2009,” said Mercier. “The team was lucky enough to have very experienced coaches on their side, notably Kate Werry (2009), Danielle Fortin (2010) and Ken Alexander (2010-2011).”
The 2009-10 season proved to be a difficult, rebuilding year for the Lady Gee Gees as they had lost a crew of handlers. They managed to win the CEUUC and CUUC, but they finished eighth at Centex and second at UPA Sectionals. Going to UPA Regionals as an underdog, with just two bids available for Nationals, they had a chance when they made it to the backdoor finals after a comeback, universe point win over the University of Pennsylvania. However, Maryland posted a similar comeback in the backdoor finals to end Ottawa’s season. With that missed opportunity, the Lady Gee Gees were determined to be a force to reckon with in the 2011 Series.
Road to Boulder
The Lady Gee Gees started this season with strong, first-place finishes in the CEUUC and CUUC tournaments in the fall of 2010. Their first performance in the States involved a lot of rookies, and it showed room for improvement as the team posted a seventh-place finish at Pres Day 2011. After they spent some time working on offensive and defensive strategies, the Gee Gees played much better at Keystone Classic as they handily defeated Pittsburgh, Tufts, Ohio State, and Penn State en route to the tournament crown.
“We also won both the USAU conference championships (the Western NY Conference) and USAU Metro East regionals, avenging last year’s losses by beating a solid Cornell squad in both of the finals, 11-8 and 13-8, respectively,” said Mercier. “Qualifying for USAU nationals for the 3rd time in our short existence, we are looking to better our performances at the big show.”
The biggest challenge for Ottawa over the past couple of years has been rebuilding the team after losing several key, high-level players. Among those players were handler Sam Morris and cutters Viv Bartlett and Meghan Kane.
“We have only a handful of girls who have experienced College Championships before – five to be exact – but also an eager and hard-working group of athletes who were committed to making Nationals as the team goal this year,” said team captain Kathryn Pohran. “We used our Canadian tournaments (Eastern and National Championships) to get the team used to playing with each other.”
The Gee Gees used Pres Day 2011 as their “tune-up tournament” after their winter break this year. It was a good test for them to see what other teams were doing, play against different zones, and show the team what it has to do as a team to reach Nationals. It also provided a chance for different players to improve and step up. Ottawa finished that tournament with four losses, but the team has not lost since including going undefeated at Keystone Classic and Conference and Regional Championships.
“All things considered, I am extremely happy with our team’s results this year,” said team coach Ken Alexander. “We’ve worked together to win 5 of our 6 tournaments (a record of 42-4, including Canadian tournaments), and our four losses are to two of the top teams (0-2 against UNC and 0-2 against UCSB) and that is definitely nothing to be down about. The losses have only turned into a positive thing for our team. It shows us that we always need to continue to work harder, and we’ve proved that we can from our results at Keystone WNY Conferences, and ME Regionals. We are looking forward to competing at Nationals in Boulder this year – this will be my first time coaching at the college USAU championships (as we lost in the game to-go last year), and I’m just as excited for our competition as the girls are.”