The sixth League1 Ontario season rolls out this weekend, featuring 15 matches across both men's and women's divisions. Come and see if you can pick out future Canadian stars!
Our third and final women's match of #L1OKickoff2019 will showcase a strong performer from 2018 versus a brand new team making a League1 debut.
Oakville Blue Devils will host Alliance United FC at Mt. Joy Field, Markham on Sunday May 5 (4 p.m.).
Alliance United FC join the women's division for a debut season, building off the back of a successful first season for their men's side in 2018.
Led by player coach, Laura Gosse, and coach Tommy Bianchi, Alliance will hit the pitch running with some strong youth and experienced players in the mix.
League1 - You're a new squad to the league, but feature plenty of familiar faces, and then some exciting young talent as well.
Who would you spotlight as you head into your league opener?
Laura Gosse - "There are a few girls that are in grade 12 and are committed to schools in the States for next year. I think they will do well for us."
"One of them is named Sydney Brough. She is a tough little central midfielder and I think she'll do good things for us. She's one of the more mature young ones I think you could say and she plays older than she is. She's small but she's tough, which is important in this league, especially when playing against players and teams that are more experienced than we are."
"We picked up a couple girls from U of T. One of them is named Daniella Cipriano. We are going to play her as an outside back. She is an attacking minded player that likes to get forward and she is strong defensively as well. She is fit enough to go forward and track back. Hopefully our back line will be strong enough to keep clean sheets and we can push our wider players forward."
"Anna Crone is another player from University of Toronto. She will be in a centre-back role, up the spine of the team. I think she will do good things for us. She has been pretty successful at University of Toronto and is actually from British Columbia."
"There is also Jessica Friend. She played with University of Western and is 23, so one of the older girls we have. She is a central midfielder and I think with the experience that she has, she will help us for sure. I think she will make a real impact and help lead the younger ones."
"Emily Lazenby has been with Markham Soccer Club for a really young time. She will play a lot until she leaves for school. She is in the back-line as well, and she is a strong player. I think there will be an adjustment for many of the young players, as there are some very experienced players and teams in the league."
"I will be playing myself, which is of course a player coach role. That will be interesting but it is kind of cool. It's a different role and I'm getting used to it."
Oakville Blue Devils women had their debut season in 2018 and performed very well, giving some of the traditional top teams a tough match and head coach John Yacou's team also featured some outstanding individuals.
League1 - The first season is always a learning experience, but Oakville seemed to come to grips with the challenge very quickly.
Who are some key pieces of the squad to highlight for the season ahead?
John Yacou - "This season i felt the need to appoint two permanent team captains to lead the team , something we did not have last season. Our two Captains will be two very strong and respected players in the league."
"Maya Pascal will be joining Laura Twidle in leading this team on and off the field. Both Laura and Maya bring a fantastic winning mentality and a fighting spirit."
"I am really happy with my coaching staff this season as they are a big supporters to myself and the team, my assistants are Peter Stratagakis who has done a great job in promoting younger players up to the first team! Peter brings a great background in the game ,first as a player and second as a successful coach."
"Natalie Bukovec started last season as player for us and scored one of the best goals in the league! This year we are lucky to have her as a part our coaching staff. The girls all respect and enjoy having her on board, in my opinion she is one of the top female coaches in the country."
"Patricia Koutoulas who was our first keeper last season and arguably the best keeper in the league will be joining us as our goal keeping coach ! Patricia will be working with our keepers this season while rehabbing her knee injury,a big hit for us to lose from our starting line up but a huge gain to have as part of our coaching staff!"
"We also have added some very exciting players to our 2019 roster:
"Rachel Melhado, a 2018 League1 All-Star will be joining us to play along side of Maya. Rachel is a great leader and a player with a lot of international and national experience! Rachel was a player i had the pleasure of working with in 2014 where she trained with a boys team i coached in Mississauga to prepare for her trials in Germany."
"Jenny Wolever is an exciting winger with lighting speed . Jenny has been a big name in the OUA in the past few season, she has won many individual/team awards. Her passion and attitude to the game is everything we need this season. Jenny is a player who is adored by all her teammates and coaches for her positive/loving personality."
"Sonia O'Neil will make the transition from playing pro in Italy to joining us in League1. Sonia is a hard working midfielder who can offer a lot on and off the ball . Sonia will bring in her experience from being a pro in the last three years to us this season and help us more in the midfield."
"Nicole Mailoux has joined us this season after taking the last four years off playing soccer and focusing on running marathons! Nicole is a huge addition to our back line. Nicole was a member of the West Virginia University women's team and her success at her university earned her a call up to the U20 Canadian National team camp."
"Daniella Vis will be joining us this season as she finishes off her schooling at St. Bonaventure University where she is currently one of the leaders of their respected soccer team. Dani is a hard working winger who can also score goals , her work rate off the ball is outstanding."
"Maria Poveda is a Leagueq Cup winner with North Mississauga in its first season in the league .Maria is a crafty player who sees the game in a way many other players don't. Maria is extremely technical and a joy to watch."
"Rachel Leck joins our front three this season from Cape Breton. Rachel is a fast hard-working striker who makes defenders jobs really tough. She helped her university this past season in scoring the winning goal at Nationals to win Bronze . She will be an impact player this season."
"Eliza Lapula is the Ryerson starting goal keeper will be joining us this season. Eliza is a great shot stopping keeper with a midfielders touch , her ability to move the ball around our back line gives us a huge advantage during build up."
"Finally, we have a lot of returning key players This season you will see:
Mahira Ali , Jivan Yacou ,Erin Cliffe, Justine Roderigues, Rachel Yerxa ,Rosie Kyeame,Olivia Di Christofaro, Emily Porteous ,Rana Hamdy, Leanne Forker, Oshay Lawes."
League1 - In a first season, it's natural to have fluid objectives as you get used to the group and how they perform.
Where are you putting your objectives as we start the 2019 campaign?
Laura Gosse - "I think for fellow coach, Tommy Bianchi, and myself our main objective is to try and get better every single game and week. That is important for us. I think this league is also really good for prepping players for university and college as well. It's also very good for players that are currently in university and those of us experienced players that are finished at that level as well. We want to develop the players in training and games, not only to be successful in the league but also to be successful at their universities or in professional opportunities elsewhere."
"I think that a lot of the teams in the league are different, which is very good as it forces technical staff and players to be able to adjust. For example, Woodbridge is very experienced and Hamilton is a bit younger, so part of what we do will be to help the girls recognize those differences and how our game must be adjusted to play against them."
"And one of the big objectives for us is the focus on our youth core. We are trying to involve the younger players from the club in attending matches etc. and use our first team playing at a high level as something to aspire to. We expect to get a big turnout from our youth and grassroots at matches, and we want it to be an objective for them to play in League1 when they get older. Building a culture is a huge thing for us."
League1 - A big second season looms for Oakville women's side, and it looks like you have a stacked squad.
What is your objective on the year?
John Yacou - "While coming so close to getting in the top four and playoffs spot in 2018, the team and myself were disappointed that our season ended in the way it did. This year is a new chapter with some exciting new talent. The team will return motivated and ready for another exciting season in League1."
"We have added eight new players to our squad. We felt the need to bring in more experience all through out the field if we wanted a chance to finish top three this season."
"Our goal this season is to come out strong from the start of the season and hope to maintain that momentum until the end of the season!"