With the winter sports finished and the fall sports set to start up again in September, the Algonquin rugby and soccer teams prepare for the season ahead.
The Algonquin Times caught up with next season’s coaches to get an overview of what fans can expect from both women’s and men’s soccer and rugby teams.
The men’s soccer team is set to hit training camps in mid-August, but are already on the verge of playing indoors and recruiting players.
Head coach Mike Gagliano is entering his fifth full year of coaching the team. Prior to that he played for the team itself, earning five consecutive provincial championships and one national championship.
Gagliano has enjoyed his time here at Algonquin and knows his team has a good chance this year of having a very successful season.
“There’s always going to be room for improvement, ” said Gagliano. “I always see us going to nationals and winning a national championship. That’s always my drive and my goal. The drive is there but what I’m excited about is the new challenge. And taking the new crop of players and seeing if we can mold a strong team together to get to the ultimate prize.”
Finishing last year with a record of 7-1-2 — wins, losses, ties — and winning bronze at provincials, the men hope to build on a successful year and advance to nationals this upcoming season.
Not everyone will be returning to the pitch next season, and it is unsure who of the all-stars such as Colin Gibson, Ebrahim Al-Ariky, Justin Gibson, Lucas Blain and Marco Natoli will be returning.
Coach Gagliano did not seem so worried.
“We usually carry a fairly deep squad. You carry guys that you know might be around a little longer and you want to watch them improve.”
Last year’s team won the defensive team of the East Division and looks to keep up that defensive intensity for next year.
“I grew up as a defender. The coaching that I have was always integrated in me that we needed to have defensive instincts first, at least trying to preach that. Making sure you have the right cover and the right balance all over the park,” said Gagliano.
His team held the ball for a majority of games last year, which helped with their defensive scheme. If you have the ball, your opponent can’t score it.
For someone who has been coaching the game for over 30 years, preparation would be the first word you would think that the person would have.
That might not be so true when you’re thrown into the action without any prior knowledge of your team or personnel on the team.
Basil Phillips took over the Algonquin women’s soccer team last August and went into the season essentially blind.
Despite that, however, he coached his team to a 6-1-5 record and winning the OCAA championship Consolation bracket.
The team hopes to build from this season, with Phillips having a full season under his belt and having the opportunity to recruit new players and mold the ones that will be returning this year. This will include all-stars Georgia Iliopoulos and Tori Trimble.
“With the college program, there’s always lots of change and lots of turnover from year to year because programs are shorter,” said Phillips.
That being said, Phillips is excited to have another opportunity to coach his team and is ready for the next challenge.
“Coaching has just always been something I wanted to do. I started when I was a teenager and always wanted to do it,” said Phillips. “I’m excited to have a crack at the regular season where I have preparation.”
He grew up with his father and older brother loving the game, his father actually being his phys-ed teacher.
Dan Gauthier has been coaching the sport of rugby since 1998, and came to Algonquin in 2011 to start coaching the women’s rugby squad eventually taking over in 2013.
“I love rugby. The values that it teaches. It teaches people about fitness, fairness, toughness, work ethic. Every player on the field is encouraged to be able to do everything.”
Finishing last year with a record of 12-0, being the East Division champions, having the rugby player of the year Leah Pedis and having the coach of the year in Gauthier looked great when the season was over.
But Gauthier is always looking for improvement, especially when the team lost in the finals of provincials to the Humber Hawks.
“12-0 sounds great, but I think we would’ve been willing to go 11-1 if it meant we would’ve won that final game in November. But, It’s good to have a goal, and it’s good to have high goals. We will be a very strong team. We’ll be a very deep team. The expectation is that we will be a favourite to win a gold medal,” said Gauthier.
Gauthier kept a thorough message throughout the season, and always preached to his players to stick with it.
“I’m a big believer in consistency and consistent messaging.”
With some players leaving, Gauthier looks forward to seeing who will step up and fill the holes left behind.
“There’s an opportunity for some of the athletes who are returning to get those minutes and to get that opportunity. As a coach, it keeps things interesting, because you never know. It’s always new,” said Gauthier on players coming in and out of the program.
With the first week of training camp set to take place in mid-August, Gauthier looks forward to seeing his new recruits and past players hit the field and get ready for another exciting season ahead.