The Rams women’s soccer squad recently received commitments from Pictou County duo Katie Walsh and Veronica Deno for the 2017 campaign, and coach Jackie Ryan couldn’t be happier.
“I’m extremely excited to have Katie and Veronica join our program,” Ryan, who has been at the helm of the team since 2012, said. “I am thrilled that they have chosen Dal AC to pursue their academic and athletic goals.”
The Rams missed a berth in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) playoffs by just one point last year after posting a 5-7 record.
Ryan didn’t have to look much further than her own backyard in Stellarton to find her latest recruits in an effort to crack the top four and earn a spot in the conference championship tournament.
Walsh, a 21-year-old centre midfielder, lives just a few doors down from Ryan and both Walsh and Deno, a 21-year-old central defender from Westville, play together for the Northern Nova United senior women’s side in the Highland Soccer League, a team which Ryan also serves as a player-coach.
Ryan has also coached both players during their high school days with the Northumberland Nighthawks.
Both Ryan and her two newest players hope their past together can help the Rams in the near future.
“Katie and I have played many seasons together in the past so hopefully we can pick up some of our old chemistry,” Deno, who recently graduated with a human kinetics degree from St. Francis Xavier University and who plans to take additional science courses to upgrade in preparation for an application to Physiotherapy, said. “I think having Jackie as a coach and teammate in the past gives me some insight into what she is looking for on the field.”
The pair also brings a truckload of valuable playing experience. Along with her senior and high school credentials, Walsh has also spent three seasons with the St. Francis Xavier X-Women and helped the school to an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) title last season.
“She is going to have an immediate impact on our program and will be a leader on and off the field,” Ryan said about Walsh, who will also be upgrading her science credits in preparation for a post-grad program in Dentistry or Education
Walsh is looking forward to lending her skills to the Rams.
“I’m excited to get back on the pitch with Jackie and meet some new girls and see what this league is all about,” she said. “Jackie is going to want me to keep the pace up and get the ball moving. The AUS is definitely an intense league and you need to stay composed and I want to bring that here.”
Ryan feels the addition of Deno will help make a solid defence, which surrendered just 23 goals in 12 matches last season, even tighter.
“Veronica is a fearless defender,” Ryan said. “She’s agile, aggressive and strong in the air and her work ethic and grit will strengthen our back line.”
The Rams have made steady improvements in the standings since Ryan, the reigning conference coach of the year, took over and started using her connections to recruit for the squad. Deno hopes the tradition continues this Fall.
“I think what Jackie has done with the team so far is great and I can’t wait to be a part of what she has planned for this season. I’m hoping to be an effective defender and contribute to the yearly improvement of the team.”