It's been a busy off season for the Niagara College women's soccer program. The Knights now rest under the leadership of first year head coach Rob Lalama. The team has also been shifted to the OCAA West Division. Add in the fact that just five players form 2016-17 are set to return this season, and it's safe to say things will be dramatically different for the Knights this year.
"Building off of last year's success, we've had a very busy off season" said first-year head coach Rob Lalama. "The expectation is to improve off of last season's playoff appearance and advance to the OCAA Championship."
The Knights will lean heavily on a combination of their talented returning veterans, and one of the strongest recruiting classes in program history.
Fifth-year center back and team captain Shannon Halliday (Welland) leads the way for the Knights returning starters. Halliday provides the Knights with savvy leadership, and rock solid defensive stability game in and game out. Joining Halliday, is second year standout Kara Latham (Welland). In her rookie season with the Knights, the dynamic midfielder notched a pair of goals and was named the Knights women's soccer and overall Niagara College rookie of the year for her efforts.
Also returning for the Knights is third year midfielder Brianna Pietrangelo (Niagara Falls) who appeared in all 10 games for the Knights last season, Bethany Langendoen (St. Catharines) who recorded one goal in eights contests in 2016-17, and second year midfielder Samantha Mascai (Port Colborne).
Lalama and the rest of the Knights coaching staff were busy on the recruiting front this off-season. The Knights added a four post-secondary transfers in midfielder Renee Lafrance (Burlington, via University of the Cumberlands), striker Alex Craig (Oakville, via Sheridan College), goalkeeper Taylor Major (Stoney Creek, via Eastern Florida State), and Kandis Klipich (Niagara Falls, via Brock University). The team also landed rookie goalkeeper Alexis Hebert (Burlington), Welland native Laruen Frasca, and Port High standout Madison Edwards (Port Colborne).
Over the Labour Day weekend the Knights formally wrapped a gruelling preseason that saw the team compete in a total of seven exhibition games. The Knights secured victories over the Humber Hawks, Durham Lords, Fleming Knights, and Redeemer Royals. The team was beaten twice by the Trent Excalibur, and edged out 1-0 by the Mohawk Mountaineers.
'We are really pleased with the progress the team has made thus far" added Lalama. "This weekend we controlled the play in all three games showing a combination of skill and physicality. The focus is to now improve on our finishing so we can take advantage of the chances we are creating. The women are very excited for the regular season to begin."
The Knights will open the 2016-17 regular season on the road on September 9th when the team travels to London to take on the Fanshawe Falcons. The team will play their first home game on September 13th at 4:00pm when they hosts the Mohawk Moutaineers at Youngs SportsPlex.