By Gabriel Rodrigues
Laurentian women’s soccer team is looking to improve with every game this season, but their coach believes they have “every opportunity to get a home playoff game.”
“We have a good mix of youth with 16 players who are first and second years,” said Rob Gallo. “We want to compete in every weekend and get better, but certainly hosting a home playoff isn’t out of our reach and we will continue to work to that goal.”
Last year, the Voyageurs finished with a record of six wins, three losses and seven draws, which earned them an away playoff matchup where they eventually lost against the Queen’s Gaels.
Gallo, who is in his 16th season as Laurentian’s women’s coach, said his team lost crucial pieces to their defense with the likes of former captain Amy-Lynn Pitton, Leah-Marie Ramalho and Ashley Melnek, but the expectations are to “constantly improve” from game-to-game.
“We are coming along really quickly,” he said. “It will still take some time to build forward by reestablishing our backline, but we just got to do some work to get more communication from the back.”
Third-year players Amy Fitzgerald and Gabrielle Conrad will provide some experience to the Voyageurs’ defensive core, but with injuries occurring to last year’s rookie of the year, Heather Gilbert, Gallo is forced to make changes until she is completely healthy.
Sophomore player and Sudbury native Megan Gallo and first-year player Allison Pilon will provide a youthful presents to the backline but Gallo said “with a little time, I think it will be good.”
Although Gallo has some concern with his backend, during their first two games of the campaign the Voyageurs proved they will be a force to reckon with, as Laurentian earned four points on the road with a hard fought 0-0 draw against the University of Toronto on Aug. 30 and 3-2 win versus the Ryerson Rams on Aug. 31.
With defense being a vocal point for Gallo, he is liking what he sees offensively from his team.
“We got some really good strikers that can put the ball away,” he said.
First-year players Sarah Sanford and Lindsay Green are new additions to the Voyageurs lineup that according to Gallo, will give his team a “new look offensively.”
“We got some youth providing some offense,” he said. “Our big thing will be to find an attacking midfield combination that works well. We are just trying to find the right mix to build from the back to the front, and we will continue to do that as we evolve and mature as a team. Right now, we have some gaps but we just need to start gaining that experience.”
Gallo will be relying on his captain, fourth-year player Julie Lopez and co-captains, Madison Beaudry and Richele Greenwood, to provide that leadership on and off the field.
Lopez, who is studying Sports Administration, said with all the pressure that comes with being captain, the idea for her is to stay simple and “lead by example.”
“Working hard in practice will translate for a higher performances throughout the whole team,” she said. “I haven’t been a very loud person, but my objectives are to work hard and the rest will follow.”
Lopez is confident her team has plenty of talent to make the playoffs, but is optimistic the Voyageurs can go further than simply qualifying for the post-season.
“We are hoping to have a home playoff game and getting by that first round,” she said. “We do have a very young squad, and it is difficult to gage where we will be within the OUA. But, we have a lot of potential and also have a lot more depth of talent within the team. We aren’t just relying on our 11 starters but more on the whole team, which will be key for such a long season.”