The heavyweights of the 2015 League1 2015 women's division, Durham United FA won the inaugural title by a landslide. The black and gold team from east Toronto came out the gates flying and didn't drop focus the entire season. Their dominance was clear in six end-of-season all-star selections, and a joint GK-Of-The-Year and Most Valuable Player honour for Nora Abolins.
The new season has arrived with some changes, however, as head coach Tony La Ferrera made way for new head coach Ron Clarke - an assistant with the Durham men's side last season - and Abolins has been signed up to the pro ranks in Sweden.
League1 caught up with Clarke to discuss how the 2016 team is coming together...
Photo: Martin Bazyl
Fresh in the job and no pressure! A title to defend this season, and am sure there have been some changes in the off-season. What are the goals of the group for 2016??
"As the new head coach of the DUFA my goal is not to make to many personnel changes. Our name has changed, our kits are new, the coaching staff has changed, but the goal to repeat as champions is still top priority.
As assistant coach for the men's teams last season I am very familiar with the level of play required to be in L1O. Adding an assistant coach like Kwame Waife-Annoh will be a true asset to our program."
DUFA 2015 (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Obviously the group last year had great chemistry, quality, and a champions mindset. Do you have much of the core returning for 2016?
"DUFA will be returning the same squad that help secure the inaugural championship with five out of the six L1O all-stars returning this season, including Alex Lamongtagne who's currently off at the U20 women's Canadian National Team camp.
The only exception is league MVP Nora Abolins who signed a professional contract in Sweden. To replace her we have secured the services NCAA 2014 Freshman of the year Laura Dougall from the University of Buffalo."
Keona Simmonds (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
What new players are you bringing through, and what areas are you looking to strengthen?
"Adding to our roster this season will be 2015 NCAA MAC conference all-freshman team striker Kristen Nason from Eastern Michigan University, Cape Breton University Capers leading goal scorer Keona Simmonds, and an experienced centre-back and CIS all-star Jessica Schefee.