Thursday, December 22, 2005

W-League Showcases the Maple Leaf

W-League Showcases the Maple Leaf
Written by Bill Ault
Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Canadian soccer fans might be forgiven if they are beginning to think that the “W” in W-League should be replaced by a “C” to reflect the Canadian content. With established franchises in Vancouver, Sudbury, Toronto and Ottawa and the addition of teams in London, Hamilton and Laval seven of 37 franchises in the league are now based in Canada and the influence of Canadian teams and players has never been stronger.

This especially the case in the where the defending Eastern Conference Champion and League Finalists Ottawa Fury will face their arch rivals in Toronto as well as the Hamilton Avalanche, the Laval Comets, and Sudbury Canadians in addition to their revamped American cousins the Rochester Ravens and the Vermont Lady Voltage.

This leaves the Vancouver Whitecaps and London Gryphons flying the Maple Leaf solo in the Western Conference and Midwest Divisions respectively.

The Whitecaps will face nemesis Seattle in addition to the Fort Collins Force, Mile High Edge, Real Colorado Cougars, and the San Diego Gauchos while London are playing an exhibition schedule in 2005 will play the Chicago Gaels, Cincinnati Ladyhawks, Cleveland Internationals, Fort Wayne Fever, Michigan Hawks, Minnesota, and the West Michigan Firewomen.

The Canadian influence stretches beyond just the teams to the players themselves with a number of Canadian suiting up for American franchises including national team members Karina Leblanc and Christine Latham who suited up for the league champion New Jersey Wildcats in 2005, Melissa Tancredi in Atlanta and Charmaine Hooper in Chicago.

Additionally the league has obviously helped in the development of younger national team level players as well with 13 of 20 players invited last week to head coach Ian Bridge’s national team camp having playing experience in the W-League.

Ten of the 13 played in the W-League last season with five representing two of the four semifinalists. Goalkeeper Erin McNulty and midfielder Veronique Miranda are from the finalist Ottawa Fury while Jodi-Ann Robinson, Sophie Schmidt and Emily Zurrer played for the third-place Vancouver Whitecaps.

Amanda Cicchini and Robin Rushton played for the expansion Toronto Lady Lynx, who reached the Eastern Conference final. Stephanie Labbe and Katie Radchuck played for the Western Mass Lady Pioneers last season while Caroline Vanderpool was a member of the first-year Vermont Lady Voltage.

In total 67 games in the 2006 W-League schedule will feature a Canadian team and 20 of those will be a battle between two Canadian franchises.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

London City Lady Selects Announce Star Signing

December 21, 2005
London City Lady Selects announce star signing
By Morris Dalla Costa
Free Press Sports Columnist

Santa has been kind to London City Lady Selects, leaving them quite the Christmas present under the tree.

The Selects of the Canadian Professional Soccer League women's division announced the signing of Natalie D'Oria yesterday.

D'Oria played virtually every minute last season for the rival W-League London Gryphons.

D'Oria, 18, was on the field for 882 of the 900 minutes played by the Gryphons in the United Soccer League's U.S.-based W-League. She also attended Florida Atlantic University on a scholarship and was named to the second team all-Atlantic Sun Conference and to the Atlantic Sun all-Freshman Team.

Before leaving for Florida Atlantic, she won a number of Thames Valley Region high school awards.

She is a provincial team player and a likely candidate for national team camps.

"We consider Natalie D'Oria a real find in our building process," said Ryan Gauss, general manager of the Selects. "She is a star player."

D'Oria's addition will make a strong team stronger. London City lost only one game in the division's inaugural season, dominating most opponents. But the loss came in the championship game.

D'Oria said she was happy with the Gryphons, but wanted to play Canadian professional soccer in a league that didn't travel a great deal and would give her a chance to see how women's Canadian professional soccer was developing.

"I didn't really want to do all that travelling," she said. "My old team plays a lot of games in the States and I'm in the States eight months of the year. I didn't need to do that all year. You were gone four days out of the week, busing there and back. We'd leave Thursday and be getting back Sunday early in the morning and it would be really draining. Here, it will be nice to be playing locally.

"I knew going down (to Florida) that I wanted to play locally when I came back, because I'm only back three months of the year and I didn't want to be all over the place again.

"But soccer is soccer no matter where you play. This level is just as competitive as where I was playing. It was a difficult decision to make. I was very excited when I made it."

D'Oria also is looking forward to having the opportunity of playing with Eva Havaris, a top woman player in London who led the Selects. It was one of the deciding factors in her signing with London City.

"I know Eva," said D'Oria. "I like the idea I'll be playing with her again. She has so much soccer experience. I played with her before when I was younger and I just like the idea that I would be playing in the middle with her again. I learned a lot from her."

Gauss learned a great deal as the general manager of the team and as a result, he's strengthened the staff.

"It was a remarkable season, but I learned that you need to build and grow if you don't want to be left in the dust," he said.

Gauss has brought on Mike Herman as an assistant general manager. Last year, Herman was the head coach and manager of the under-21 women's Ontario Cup silver medallists with the London City Lady Vets.

Also joining the staff is Nick D'Oria, Natalie's father. He will be the head scout and management consultant. D'Oria is head coach of the Regina Mundi boys team and coached at various other levels, including as an assistant with Western's women's team.

Also joining London City Lady Selects is Laurie Workman, who is known for her work on the Henderson international soccer tournament. She'll become the director of public relations.

Whether the structure of the women's division in the CPSL will change remains to be seen. Stan Adamson of the CPSL was at the news conference and indicated there was a new atmosphere of co-operation between the Ontario Soccer Association and the CPSL about forming a women's league, rather than just a division.

"There was some resistance and hostility last year," Adamson said. "That hostility has dissipated."

But there's still no news as to whether the OSA will support the move to a woman's league.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Soccer Player 11 Spotlighted

Thursday, December 1, 2005

It has become the measure of greatness in young athletes.

You are called "Gretzky-like" and the heavy mantle of expectation is thrust on your shoulders.

Jim Bujouves has coached 11-year-old soccer player Chantale Campbell for three years.

"She has attributes which are Gretzky-like," he said. "I can only surmise from other coaches who have been on the soccer scene for 25, 30 years. At this age, she is the best female soccer player they've seen in 20, 25 years."

Bujouves has coached Chantale and her twin-sister Emilie for three years with the London City Flash.

They'll turn 12 in January. Chantale has been selected as one of the 25 members of the under-14 provincial soccer squad.

"For three years, she's played for teams that are two years ahead of her age (with London City)," said Bujouves. "But at the provincial level, it's unusual to allow an underage (one year younger) to be involved in the process. It's unheard of having a child two years younger make the provincial squad."

Dave Peak is the regional development coach for the Ontario Soccer Association under-13 boys' and girls' team. Peak handles practices for the provincial players in this area. Chantale practises with him twice a week.

"She is technically and mentally well beyond her age," said Peak. "You don't see that very often. She is at the level of someone who is much older."

Peak has been around a long time as a player and coach. Is she the best player he has seen?

"By far, by far," he said. "The best boy or girl at that age."

That's some heavy-duty praise considering the London area is producing many fine soccer players, especially in female soccer.

"It's a ton of pressure, so it has to be managed," said Bujouves. "That's what makes her unique. The parents have allowed Chantale to play at the level she is capable of playing. It has been her own initiative, not the initiative of her parents or others. There were many people who wanted to hold them back, but it was her desire to move down that path and she's handled it very well."

None of this seems to affect Chantale.

"I know I'm going to have bad days. But I feel great. It gives me a challenge and I get to meet other players. It helps me be a better player."

It's a highly competitive, physically demanding situation. Beside the two-a-week practices with Peak, Chantale is in Toronto every weekend for Saturday and Sunday practices with the provincial squad. That means a 4:30 a.m. wakeup one day and 6 a.m. the other.

"It doesn't bother me anymore," she said. "Before when I had to get up, I thought, 'I'm tired.' Now I'm used to it."

A number of factors make her a special package. She has played in an older group for a number of years and played a lot. She works hard at her game and the fact that her twin sister is a very good player as well has helped.

"She has great awareness of the game itself, a first touch with the ball that makes her so good," said Peak. "She finds space for herself and knows how to lose a marker (her defensive check). She is doing things that are years beyond her."

Those are intricacies of the game that often escape far older players.

"You've met people who have the intangibles. You can't explain what they have, but they have it," said Bujouves. "And she's a twin. I'm a twin and I know what a competitive environment will do for you."

Sister Emilie is no slouch as a player, either She has worked her way onto the regional under-13 squad, playing a year ahead of her age group.

"They're competitive about everything," said father Terry. "They go outside and play volleyball, but they play volleyball with their feet. It's bah, bah, bah this and bah, bah, bah, bah that. 'You're cheating.' 'No. I'm not.' It's hysterical. They always try to get the edge on each other."

And with "Gretzky-like" potential, it's not surprising Chantale has Gretzky-like ambitions.

"I want to make the national team and play for Team Canada," she said.