For the Algonquin Thunder women’s soccer team, last season was perfect – if it wasn’t for the finish.
The team entered the Ontario College Athletics Association (OCAA) final as the regular season champions and winners of nine consecutive games – all shutouts.
The nature of a single-game elimination format is that little is guaranteed. The Thunder lost 1-0 in the OCAA championship final to Seneca College, a team they defeated in the regular season as well as in the final the year before, when the Thunder won gold.
“The feeling associated with the loss in the 2014 OCAA championship game is one that has stuck with the players and the coaching staff for the past 12 months,” said head coach Dominic Oliveri. “The message to our returning players has been a simple one: as a group we need to do everything within our control to ensure that we never have to experience that feeling again.”
Putting the end to last season behind them, the Thunder opened with four wins to begin their 2015 season. The team received scoring contributions from seven different players on opening weekend while not allowing a goal against, defeating Fleming College 8-0 and Centennial 2-0.
The games the following weekend stuck to a similar script: an 8-0 victory over Loyalist College and a 2-0 win over Cambrian, with goals from seven different players.
Oliveri said his coaching staff, “has been pleased with how the veteran players have stepped up and assumed leadership roles within the team.” He added, “Our rookies have stepped in and have quickly adjusted to the demands of our program and are contributing to our on field success.”
Allison Clayton, a pre-nursing student, is among the 13 first-year players on the team this season. Clayton, a central defender, marked her Thunder debut with a pair of goals against Fleming College in the team’s opening game of the season.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Clayton. “You’re coming in as a freshman and as a center back, so you’re not used scoring. Being a rookie, starting and scoring two goals in one half, it’s pretty much just surreal for me.”
The Thunder will play more games than usual this fall as the OCAA announced a new schedule at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Algonquin remains in the same division with their familiar Eastern foes, but will play 12 games instead of eight, including a “home and away” with each opponent.
Oliveri relishes the opportunities presented by an expanded season.
“The additional games gives the staff additional time to implement our playing identity, assess our team, and make adjustments in training,” said Oliveri. “From a players point of view, it gives them a greater opportunity to showcase themselves and what they have learned.”