After spending the past five years kick-starting her professional soccer career in Iceland, it was a virtually given that the next tour of duty for Sudbury product and Ecole secondaire Macdonald-Cartier graduate Cloe Lacasse would see things heating up for the talented goal scorer.
Less than one month ago, the 26 year-old signed a two year contract with the Portuguese club Benfica in the Campeonato Nacional de Futebol Feminino (Liga BPI), with Lisbon soon to be the city that Lacasse calls home.
“I'm excited to explore this country, especially the beautiful beaches I have been hearing so much about,” she said recently. “Also, it's obviously a little bit warmer here than it is in Iceland, so I'll hopefully enjoy a bit of sunshine.”
Above all else, however, Lacasse is looking to shine on the pitch.
The top scorer on her team during a four-year NCAA career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, a first team all Big Ten selection in both 2013 and 2014, Lacasse was granted her Icelandic citizenship earlier this summer. Growing her game in a competitive environment that is several steps up from the Urvalsdeild kvenna in Iceland was paramount to earning a legitimate shot at a call-up in international match settings.
“This (Liga BPI) is one of the strongest leagues in Europe,” said Lacasse. “Portugal is investing a lot of money in their national (women's) team, and also in the Portuguese women's league. The group of women playing on this squad are very impressive.”
In fact, since launching the team in 2017, Benfica would see their squad absolutely destroy Second Division competition last year, netting nearly 300 goals in less than twenty games and earning a promotion in the process. The results were not shocking, as the Portuguese powerhouse loaded their roster with international talent, including the likes of Darlene de Souza and Geyse Ferreira from the Brazilian national team.
“The team has pulled in crowds anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000, and they want that to continue growing through the upcoming years,” added Lacasse. “I chose to make this move because it's a big step forward and it will only help me improve as a football player.”
“This club wants to be one of the best women's clubs in the world in a short amount of time and I want to be part of that project.”
In fact, her new destination is a logical progression for the young lady who would lead the Macdonald-Cartier Panthères to a pair of OFSAA championships, as well as being part of an impressive collection of talent with the Sudbury Canadians, joining teammates Karolyne Blain and Serena San Cartier in making the jump to the post-secondary ranks.
“European football is much more technical,” said Lacasse. “When I went to university in America, it really tested me and allowed me to improve my athletic abilities on the field. Having played some time in Iceland, I feel like I am a much stronger all-around player, technically and athletically.”**************************************************
A Saturday double-header against the 1-9-0 Bracebridge Storm might not have provided ideal preparation for the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact U14 boys, taking on the Bradford Eagles in their HDSL (Huronia District Soccer League) Cup final this weekend, but it certainly allowed Nick Walker's troops plenty of time on the ball.
“They had one less player – they had ten, we had eleven – so we wanted to pass instead of dribble, tire them out so that we don't get tired, with lots of substitutions,” noted centre mid/centre back Braydon Ethier-Perras. “Our composure on the ball, we struggled with that at the beginning of the season, but we're starting to pick it up.”
“You just have to be confident when you receive it, and look for the pass right away.”
Mind you, facing an undermanned opponent, “right away” is likely not anywhere close to the same as the challenges they will face from the Eagles this Sunday in Orillia. After trouncing Bracebridge 9-2 in their opener last weekend (Carter Grenier-2, Ousama Quarquoz-2, Josafat Castillo, Cale Bast, Nathan Cranston, Nicholas McGee, Blake Rosener), the Impact posted an efficient 5-0 whitewash in the late afternoon.
A two-goal effort by Cranston powered the Sudbury attack, with solo strikes coming courtesy of McGee, Quarquoz and John Campbell, while Matthew Bodnar earned the shutout. Coach Evan Phillips is also taking his Impact U13 boys into Cup action this Sunday, facing the Innisfil Stampeders, while the vaunted Impact U14 girls will try to make sure they do not take their collective feet off the gas this weekend, meeting up with the North Bay Lakers in their championship Cup tilt.
Finally, both the Laurentian Voyageurs men's and women's teams will open camp next week. While Carlo Castrechino is back again with the L.U. lads, looking to build on a team that lost a heart-breaking 1-0 double overtime decision in the playoffs to the University of Toronto Blues last fall, the coach at the helm of the women's squad has not yet been confirmed.