Written by Samuel Hill
Photo by Valerie Wutti
The 2021 season for the Carleton women was a year of learning, progressing and improving. The team showed all year just how powerful a resilient attitude can be in challenging times. If you were to judge the team solely on the number of wins they had this season, you’d be doing yourself, and the Ravens women, a massive disservice.
The minute the OUA schedule was released, it was clear that the Ravens would be facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs this season. Their division was undoubtedly the toughest in the province. Filled with three teams that were ranked in the top ten in the nation throughout the year in Queens, uOttawa and York. Of course, as a team, you always hope you will be able to compete amongst the best, but the Ravens came into this season with a young squad who needed experience.
The first five games of Carleton’s season brought some growing pains, including two shutout defeats to Queens to start the season 5-0 and 2-0, respectively. But there were also flashes of brilliance from the team. A 9-nil drubbing of RMC showed what the Ravens were capable of both offensively and defensively. Furthermore, It gave them self-confidence and belief that the work they were putting in and the process they were following would bring results.
After the win against RMC, a loss to rival uOttawa quickly followed. But yet again, the Ravens showed how resilient they were coming back two days later to earn a 1-1 draw with the Gee-Gees, a team that was ranked third in the country at the time.
It was the type of result that made head coach Dominic Oliveri so proud of his team this season. In an end-of-season interview, Oliveri said the thing he was most proud of was the way his team was able to overcome adversity all season: “Just their resilience. The team could have easily thrown in the towel after the start of the season, but they continued to work hard… those were some really positive signs.”
The tie with uOttawa, which subsequently ended up being the only time the Gee-Gees dropped points all season, proved to be a turning point in the Ravens season. Ultimately, the team was starting to blend youthful exuberance with a touch of older leadership. Coach Oliveri had nothing but good things to say about the way his team pushed each other all year: “It was a competitive environment within the team day all year, and we’re looking to continue that environment moving forward. Very excited for the future of the program, very very young in terms of the players we have in the program and the few senior players have done a great job of setting the example.”
In the last four games of Carleton’s season after the uOttawa draw, Carleton lost just once and conceded just four goals while scoring seven over that span. It was clear to anyone who had followed the Ravens all year that they had improved substantially from game one to game ten. For coach Oliveri, it’s all about sticking to the process: “ For us, it’s always about the process, the journey for sure… the team kept with it, they worked hard, especially in the second part of the season and the results started to come our way.”
Although it is with a heavy heart, the team will say goodbye to crucial seniors like Chloe Doherty (Ottawa, Ont.), Ghalia and Sabrina Hammada (Kanata, Ont.), and Jenna Gurniak (Vancouver, B.C.) next outdoor season, there are plenty of players ready to fill those big boots.
17 of Carleton’s 22 players this year were first or second-year players, and for Oliveri, that’s exciting: “what we need to do now is continue to grow as a program. We have to put in elite-level work, we have to outwork other programs, and that’s the goal for next year. We’ve got tremendous players here already and more coming into the program next year. So it’s the balance of continuing to work with what we have and blending in new blood.”
Lessons were learned, experience was gained, and improvements were made this season for the Carleton women. This season was just one step on a long journey for the team and the program. There is no doubting it was a meaningful one. Now they set their sights on the indoor season and preparations for next year.