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Oakville Blue Devils Set To Bring Winning Habits To 2018 Women's Division

03/06/2018, 6:30pm EST
By League1 Ontario staff

As the Oakville Blue Devils men's League1 side prepare for an action-packed season ahead, featuring an historic Canadian Championship appearance, the Blue Devils family also grows as a new women's side will take the pitch in the League1 women's 2018 division. 

It's a point of fact that Oakville Blue Devils men won the league in their first season; can the women replicate that achievement in their debut year?

"We have obviously set a high bar with that achievement but we're not making any predictions on winning the league or anything like that because we are primarily focused at this stage on creating a very well-blended roster," said Oakville Blue Devils' Duncan Wilde. 

"We'll have a mixture of senior academy, USports, NCAA and also graduated players in our women's team. We have found that mix works well for us on our men's side and with the philosophy we have at the Oakville Blue Devils." 

"We want a good blend of youth, college player and some experience in there to gel it together."

Two official signings have already been announced by the Blue Devils, with followers of League1 Ontario doubtlessly registering recognition at the mention of Jamaican international Oshay Lawes and Laura Twidle - two previous North Mississauga forwards that can boast skill, speed and goalscoring panache.

"Oshay Lawes is our first announcement and we see her as a real powerful addition to our squad, bringing a lot of pace and goalscoring potential," commented Wilde. 

"We also added Laura Twidle for the same reasons. We are looking at our firepower and options and we're excited about both of those." 

"We also have a social media announcement coming very soon with several other exciting signings with both international and NCAA experience," he added. 

"We are very aware of the rhythms of the league, as far as when American based players return from school and when they have to depart later in the summer, and Brett and John are busy building a team with a balance of home-based and college players. We are in a very good position with our squad-building but are also actively engaged in the recruitment process as well."

With a golden track record already in place in League1 - having won two championships in only three seasons in the men's division - expectations are very high for an Oakville Blue Devils women's side that is coming together well in its first pre-season.

However, Wilde said the technical staff is still in the process of assessing potential players for the season ahead, although spots on the squad are dwindling.

"We are always looking because we are looking for the best," he stated. 

"We are coming into the league with the intention to impact it, if we can. It is like anything else, first year out you are really not going to know one hundred per cent what you are like until you hit the match environment but we're going about this in the very same way as we've built a successful League1 men's program." 

Oshay Lawes (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

Wilde explained that having a women's first team in the club is integral to the structure and ethos of the Oakville Blue Devils. 

"We've already had one year in the Ontario Academy Soccer League (OASL) with boys' teams and we feel it is important that our program be gender equal in 2018," he said. "We wanted to have a flagship team and a mentorship program similar to what we've already done with the men's and boys section. It's time to extend our business and invest further in the female game."   

However, although the women's section may be a new addition for the Oakville Blue Devils, it is not the first time Wilde and his staff have run a top-class women's program. In the club's previous iteration as the Toronto Lynx, Wilde and his team ran successful sides in both the men's USL PDL league and the now defunct women's W-League. 

"With the Toronto Lynyx, we had the top men's team play in the PDL and of course the women played in the W-League, but the W-League closed as a number of teams from Ontario withdrew," he said.

"We didn't really have a choice on the women's side at that time, so we lost a lot of our players. A lot of them went into the pro league and many more are at university, so now we are going to resign a few, recruit some more, and move a few more on from our academy. It's time now to bring that back and try and repeat the very successful model we had with our women's program." 

Laura Twidle (Photo: Bob Twidle)

A familiar name has been selected as head coach of the women's team, as vastly experienced and longtime Oakville Blue Devils coach Brett Mosen will take the reins.  

"Brett has been with us since 2004, on and off," said Wilde. "He spent a couple of years with Billy [Steele] and I as technical staff on our pro team and then around 2007, when we opened our first season in the W-League, Brett was our inaugural head coach."

"He moved on and worked with the Hamilton and KW USL programs and came back to us full-time in 2015 when we made the move from USL to League1. In the meantime he has also been head coach of the McMaster team on the women's side."

"It's just a natural fit that we have that high-quality, technical individual within our framework and it just makes all the sense in the world to have Brett oversee the inaugural season for the League1 Oakville Blue Devils women's team."

In addition, the technical staff has been fleshed out with the addition of assistant coach, John Yacou. 

"Brett's appointment of John Yacou as the official assistant coach comes from a previous connection, as John was previously an assistant coach at McMaster with Brett," revealed Wilde. 

"It's nice to have that partnership back together and John also has League1 experience after having worked with North Mississauga on the women's side. We really feel this is a strong technical foundation to launch our women's program from." 

One can expect the same electric atmosphere at the Oakville Blue Devils' women's home matches as League1 supporters have become accustomed to at the club's Sheridan College grounds. 

"A women's home match-day will look exactly like the men's," confirmed Wilde. 

"We've put our home schedule together based on the ladies playing when the men are not so that the two programs can support each other."

"All of our games will be Sunday, 4 p.m. at Sheridan College and we really feel that we have a winning formula with that. We're working hard to replicate the game day timelines and structure that we have put in place on the men's side. There will be more involvement from our female academy, doing concessions, football retriever, flag bearers - just like the boys do at the men's game."

"We're trying to encourage both of our academies to attend both games and that is why we're not going with Saturdays and Sundays home matches, or doubling up on the Sunday," he explained.

"Instead we will have a feature game every week on the Sunday, either the men's team or the ladies team. We think each team needs it's own respect and attention with a focus on their own home match." 

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