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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Voyageur women look to re-group for week two
by Randy Pascal

Goal scoring might well have been the biggest concern for Laurentian Voyageurs women's soccer head coach Rob Gallo coming into the 2018 campaign, but it was keeping the ball out of their net that caused the biggest issues for the locals on their home opening weekend.

Of course, that might have had as much to do with the opposition that was in town, as the talented tandem from the nation's capital limited the Voyageurs to just a single point in a pair of outings.

Laurentian played to a 2-2 draw with the Carleton Ravens on Saturday, as Megan Chiovitti and Brianne Rodrigue scored for L.U., but were no match on Sunday for the powerful Ottawa Gee Gees, 5-0 winners on the road.

Taking to the pitch on the heels of highly competitive campaigns in both 2016 and 2017, Gallo and company are realistic this fall, given a significant exodus in goal scoring in the form of graduates Sarah Sanford and Samantha Selkirk, combined with a few untimely pre-season injuries.

"I think we may have to take a step back, unfortunately," said Gallo at practice last week. "A lack of goal scoring, which has haunted us in former years but was much better the last couple of years, has come back to haunt us."

Ironically, protecting their own end of the pitch was seemingly the long-time coach's least of concerns, suggesting that the week one goals against total might just be something of an aberration.

"Defensively, I think we're strong," Gallo stated. "We still have the best goaltending, in my opinion. What's really nice is that I have three top notch goalies and a fourth that's developing. (2017 all-star Caitlin) McNamara will be pushed by the other two."

Knowing that this weekend might be challenging, Gallo decided to start McNamara versus Carleton and then split the Ottawa affair between Heather McGregor and local product Josée Scott.

"We've got depth this year on defense, which is nice, since we thought coming in this year, this would be our weakness, with the loss of (all-star Allison) Pilon and Kristy Walton," he said. "The kids have pulled in really nicely."

The pairing of Victoria Galluzzo and Rachel Sheppard will patrol the interior back-line positions, while Mia De Gasperis shifts from striker, joining Shantae Johnson in the role of outside fullback.

"We moved De Gasperis back because of her speed, and she looks really good back there, because of her ability to overlap." The midfield will focus around veterans Catherine Rocca and Chiovitti, though Gallo expects significant contributions from both sophomore Kylie Swain and rookie Amanda Cuthbert (currently sidelined with an injury).

But it's up front where Gallo sees a need to perhaps slot players into roles that are somewhat less than ideal. "Brianne (Rodrigue) is taking a lot of pressure on, just because we don't have any goal scorers," suggested Gallo of the move of the former Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes star from outside to the top striker slot.

"We have some kids who will work really hard, but we just didn't get the finishing touch, in recruiting, that we really wanted. Brianne is not the biggest, but she's a tremendous worker, with some nice speed and can finish."

"(Cassandra) Cristiano is a totally different player," Gallo continued. "She holds the ball really well, can come back and distribute. That's her strength. Goals are going to have to come out of the midfield."

"Our set pieces, last year, was probably out strength, but a lot of that is gone. We're really going to have to work for goals, this year, which means we're going to have to defend tenaciously and have a very good transition to counte-attack for us to be successful."

That will be the goal as the Laurentian women look to turn things around next weekend in Kingston, facing the RMC (Royal Military College) Paladins on Saturday and then battling the Queen's Gaels the next day at Richardson Satdium.

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