Georgia Iliopoulos, the captain of the Thunder women’s soccer team, started playing soccer when she was five. She found herself passionate about the game, especially being part of a team and winning games with her teammates.
“Sharing that experience with people that you’re close with and winning is just satisfying,” said Iliopoulos.
Her enthusiasm for soccer inspired her brother Michael Iliopoulos, who soon dove into the game right after his sister. Today, he plays for Thunder soccer too on the men’s team as a midfielder.
He sees her as a role model in playing soccer. “She has a very good work ethic,” said Michael. “I wanted to have that drive in soccer, just like her, and she’s always there to push me to get to where I am right now.”
Georgia, a defender, has scored five goals this season.
Basil Phillips, head coach of the Thunder women’s soccer, said Georgia is outstanding.
“Offensively, she’s been good,” said Basil. “Defensively, she’s been good as well. She’s going well with her role as the captain.”
Veteran Thunder player, Georgia’s career began four years ago. After finishing high school, her talent in soccer was discovered by the then-Thunder women’s head coach Dominic Oliveri, who recruited her to join Thunder at one of her club games.
This is the first year that Georgia is playing out of her defensive position. She and her brother have both played as defenders for years. Because she is the captain, she has to change her position sometimes.
She is moving from the fullback position into midfield this season. This gives her the opportunity to become more versatile. She was trained to be on the ball in a different position.
Phillips said that it was not easy for Georgia to adjust to the change within a short period of time, but she did it.
“She’s been playing up a bit in the midfield already,” he said. “She’s able to bring herself to perfect positions on the field so she can get the ball, and shoot it into the net.”
Her teammates see her as someone with a huge impact in games, they say she has an accurate calculation and control for the pulse of the games.
“If there’s a game where she doesn’t show up, I can feel it because we need the way she envisions the games,” said Philomene Sully-Bitsi, striker for the Thunder women’s soccer team. “She’s capable of knowing where to go, and when to slow down or speed up the pace.”
Georgia has also just broken a record in her career as a soccer player.
During the Thunder women’s first game versus Fleming College, she scored three out of five goals that her team scored.
“I would say that was my best performance because I achieved a hat trick that I have never done before in my whole life of playing soccer,” she said.
Phillips considers Georgia a player with high potential.
“It’s hard to say how far she can go, but she’s definitely moving forward,” he said.
Michael’s journey in Thunder began with being Thunder’s rival team at first.
Back in 2017, when he was still playing for Futuro Soccer Academy against Thunder, Mike Gagliano, head coach of Thunder men’s soccer team, found Michael ideal for Thunder to recruit.
“He was tenacious,” said Gagliano. “He has a very explosive burst, and that’s kind of what we have seen from him so far.”
After joining the Thunder this year, Michael is also going through a transition to a new position. He has just started this season as a midfielder, but he is rising swiftly by scoring five goals for his team.
It took a bit for Michael to warm up in the new position, but once he figured out his role, he started to love scoring and he takes pride in doing so.
“I think his biggest potential is more in attack instead of defense,” said Ali Bensaci, Thunder men’s wing-back. “I think if he continues to play in the position that the coach put him in, he will grow immensely as a striker.”
Bensaci said that If the Thunder men’s team is a machine, Michael is the lubricant. He pushes forward the game rapidly.
“As soon as Michael comes in, he changes the whole game,” said Bensaci. “Say if we’re leading at 1:0, then Michael comes in next, and we’re winning at like 4:0. He gives energy to the team. That’s what I like about him.”
Bensaci still remembers Michael’s performance in the game versus Cambrian College, where he scored two goals in five minutes.
“He was very close to getting a hat trick,” said Bensaci.
He made his debut in the game versus Fleming College by making some effective passes to his teammates and scored the first goal for Thunder.
During Thunder’s second game of the season versus Sault College, Michael contributed two goals for his team.
“It was that day that he put himself on the map,” said Gagliano. “He opened a lot of people’s eyes. I’d say that’s a big one because people started to take notice of him as a new player.”
“He has already done a great job as a rookie by scoring five goals so far,” said Bensaci. “I can imagine that by his third or fourth year he can score like 15 goals a season.”