With seven rookies cracking the roster and at least a couple expected to contend for starting positions, Lady Vees soccer coach Rob Gallo is well in line to describe his 2012 troops as a relatively young team. Not that he's expecting any less. "I think we have people that think the game," Gallo said. "We have speed, we have diversity of player now. What's exciting is that they have a youthful energy." Laurentian is coming off a solid year, posting a record of 7-6-3, finishing fifth in the East before paying the price for countless injuries in a first round playoff loss to the Carleton Ravens. Still, taking points from the Ottawa Gee Gees (CIS Bronze) and Queen's Golden Gaels (CIS Gold) provided coach Gallo and company some solid building blocks.
"We're in the toughest division in the country right now," Gallo said. "If we can find the consistency to put away average teams, instead of letting them hang in games, we'll be fine."
While the Laurentian tradition in women's soccer has historically been built around rock solid defense, the hopes are that the 2012 edition of the team will be able to open things up a little more. "I'm hoping we have a little more goal-scoring, which would release some of the pressure on our defense," Gallo said. "I think we have the ability to create as many chances, but the difference is that I think we have kids who can bury those chances."
Fifth year forward Lisa Watson will be counted on offensively, but until Brett Vanderwoude returns near the mid-point of the season, the likes of sophomore Celine Valiquette and rookie Amanda Kwan might well be leaned on the chip in on the attack. Lo-Ellen graduate Renee Jacques returns for her 5th year to anchor the midfield, while Amy-Lynn Pitton does the same on the back line. The graduation of keeper Michele Philp has created an interesting battle in net as transfer Laura Van de Valk (Saginaw Valley State) fights it out with Jaimee Lafreniere and Richele Greenwood for the starting position.
As the only coach the L.U. program has ever known, Gallo pulls no punches on what lies ahead. "The OUA is a tough, physical brand of soccer," he said. "We're not as big as we used to be, but we're quicker, we play faster," he added. "The girls are thinking the game beyond what I've seen before. We should be able to play a better game, a possession game, which is what I like."
As for going out on the limb in terms of predictions, Gallo is understandably a little more cautious. "We could be the surprise team, or we could be the team just struggling to win games and get into the playoffs."