W-League Preview: Central Conference
Fury looking to maintain hold on title from challengers

W-League Preview

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The W-League’s Central Conference has been dominated by the Ottawa Fury during the past decade, with the club finally winning its first championship last season after a tense final against the Pali Blues. While the Fury ended up on top of the standings a year ago, however, the challenge to them was stronger than ever from the Quebec City Amiral, who finished just four points behind the Fury, while Laval, Toronto and K-W United all had strong summers. The question now is whether one of those teams can go one step better and claim the conference title.

K-W United – The new season brings a new name for the former Hamilton Rage FC, and the hope that the club can build on its place in the conference semifinals last season. On a re-tooled roster, Virginia Commonwealth standout Courtney Conrad brings her scoring prowess after recording 11 goals for the Rams last fall, while midfielder Emily Adamic arrives after a good freshman season at the University of Memphis that saw her make 16 starts and record a goal and two assists. Radford’s Rachel Conway should also contribute after leading the Highlanders with seven goals and 16 points last fall.

Laval Comets – The Comets have a new coach after 11-year W-League veteran and former player Cindy Walsh took over the side in the offseason. Walsh will have some good players returning as she tries to help the team improve on its third-place finish a season ago, starting with the club’s leading scorer Nkemjike Ezurike, who finished the summer with five goals. Defender Kathryn Acton also returns after playing every minute of every game a season ago, while University of Wisconsin and Canadian U20 National Team goalkeeper Genevieve Richard joins the team.

London Gryphons – After a winless 2012 season, the Gryphons are looking to some new faces to help the side try to move up the standings this summer. Among those is young goalkeeper Miranda Horn, who recently signed with George Washington University after a stellar youth career that saw her named to the Ontario Provincial Soccer Team in four successive years. Also joining the side is former Central Michigan standout Stephanie Martin, who finished her career with the Chippewas as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 26 goals and 69 points.

Ottawa Fury – After falling short on numerous occasions, the Fury were able to claim their first W-League championship on their home turf last season, a reward richly deserved by the club and recently inducted USL Hall of Famer John Pugh. Now the Fury will try to defend their title, and they have a number of key players returning with All-Central Conference goalkeeper Jasmine Phillips set to return after recording 0.439 goals-against average a season ago. The Fury have also added Alyscha Mottershead, who was an All-Conference selection a season ago for Toronto.

Quebec City Amiral – After reaching the national semifinals a season ago, the Amiral are aiming to topple the Fury from top spot in the conference, and have added a number of good players to try and reach their goal. Among those new to the roster are goalkeeper Cynthia LeBlanc, who previously played for the Canadian U20 National Team. Returning to the Amiral is forward Lea Chastenay-Joseph, who had three goals last summer, and midfielder Joelle Gosselin, who had two goals and three assists.

Toronto Lynx – Toronto finished fourth in the conference a season ago, but has a very different look for the new season with the departure of Alyscha Mottershead to Ottawa and the absence of leading scorer Kinley McNicoll. To make up for this, however, the Lynx have added a number of good young players, including starting WNT defender Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, who was named Canada’s U17 Player of the Year in 2012 and is moving into the senior squad this season. Also in the squad are Lawrence’s former U17 National Team colleagues Kailen Sheriden, Rebecca Quinn and Rebecca Pongetti, with Sheridan serving as the starting keeper in every game at last year’s U17 Women’s World Cup.