By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
Of course there is no regret.
Spending a year with the Doncaster Rover Belles in the fledgling English Women’s Super League. In the middle of an Olympic year with the British capital of London hosting the Summer Games. And with former Wilfrid Laurier University women’s soccer teammate Tania Pedron by her side.
Other than a few more games, Alyssa Lagonia could not ask for anything more from her first season of professional soccer.
“It was a great experience in that sense — being surrounded by soccer all the time, or as they call it, futbol,” said the 23-year-old Grand River Collegiate grad. “I definitely got used to that. To the point that coming back here and saying ‘soccer’ is weird for me.
“But the culture around there is phenomenal. You just wanted to be playing all the time and I think the league was very competitive and they were pushing to build it up.”
But after helping the Belles to a seventh-place finish in the second year of the English super league’s existence, Lagonia is on the move again.
On Thursday, the former CIS women’s soccer player of the year at Laurier was asked to join ASD CF Bardolino Verona, which is currently in fourth place in the Italian Women’s Serie A, after earning a tryout in early January.
“It is great here, I’ve really enjoyed my time so far and I am very excited to get playing,” she said in an email from the northern Italian city located between Venice and Milan.
The news caps off a whirlwind year for the attacking midfielder, who little more than a year ago helped lead the Golden Hawks to the OUA finals and a CIS championship tournament appearance.
Not long after graduation, the former national team member was off to Doncaster, England, about a 90-minute drive east of the soccer hotbed of Manchester, and played all 14 games with the Belles with a pair of goals.
It was an eye-opening experience for Lagonia. Semi-professional female players in Britain are paid part-time, get two days of training per week and usually have to pick up another job on the side to make ends meet.
Some are teachers. Some are physiotherapists. Business graduates Lagonia and Pedron, meanwhile, had to pick up shifts once a week at an upscale bar.
“It was a healthy out from the soccer world and kept us sane,” Lagonia said. “A nice little alternate, once-a-week thing.”
But as a high-level soccer aficionado, the experience at times was hard to beat.
Although the Belles didn’t play at illustrious venues like Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea, they did get the chance to compete in some of the larger men’s league stadiums.
And with the English super league on hiatus during the Summer Games, Lagonia spent time in London and was live in the flesh as the women’s national team fell to the United States in a thrilling semifinal game before winning bronze against France.
“We played so well; I didn’t think we had enough gas in the tank after the Americans,” she said. “There was such a sense of pride watching them and what they did for girls’ soccer in this country. Who knows were it goes from here? Hopefully the sport gets bigger.”
Pride because Lagonia was part of the previous national cycle, having joined the senior team at the 2009 Cyprus Cup and Canada’s entry at the 2011 world university games.
Lagonia is being considered for the next cycle as well, and joined 27 other senior team hopefuls in December for a training and assessment camp in Vancouver.
If all goes well, Lagonia said it would be a dream to be part of the national team that will represent host Canada at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is being held in Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Moncton, N.B.
To that end, Lagonia is willing to go to Britain, Italy, wherever, to prove to coach John Herdman she deserves a shot.
“That’s a massive goal for me for sure,” Lagonia said. “I’d like to play as long as I can, because why join the real world when you can keep playing soccer today.”