The newest Belle
Alyssa Lagonia has worn the red and white before, but never quite like this.
The former Team Canada women’s soccer midfielder and ex-Laurier Golden Hawk has traded in the maple leaf for the barber-pole look of the Doncaster Rovers Belles in England, and the business graduate feels her last three weeks across the pond have been exquisite.
“I’ve always wanted to come to Europe to play,” said the 2011 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player of the year over Skype on the weekend.
The Belles, one of the eight teams in England’s FA WSL (Football Association Women’s Super League) signed Lagonia to a contract in early March after weeks of discussion.
Laurier coach and player agent Barry MacLean as well as assistant coach Niki Budalic used their contacts to build a connection to Doncaster, but it was Lagonia who did all the work researching her new home.
“I figured it all out myself and was almost filling in those guys (MacLean and Budalic) on the league,” said the centerpiece of the Golden Hawks’ squadron during her tenure at the school.
The league may only be a year old, but the Rovers Belles precede the FA WSL by decades. It was 1969 in which the township formed the Belle Vue Belles, later the Doncaster Belles.
“They go way back,” said Lagonia. “It’s a great little club with a lot of pride.”
Now that the star who has formerly played with the Ottawa Fury of the United Soccer League’s W-League has gained international clearance last week, she took in her first match versus the Bristol Academy Women in a 1-0 loss for her side, which was broadcasted on ESPN during the Continental Cup.
Their regular season starts in April and play lasts until October, which is also when Lagonia’s contract expires.
And the product of Kitchener isn’t the only international player on the club. Two players hailing from Ireland have joined Lagonia in a Doncaster hotel which will be her permanent residence for the next seven months.
“It’s very cute and quaint,” gushed Lagonia of her new town, located within a two-hour train ride from London and an hour east of Manchester. “It’s a typical English town with lots of old, little buildings and houses and cute little roads. It’s definitely taken some getting used to, compared to back home.”
John Buckley, the side’s head coach has placed Lagonia in front of the striker. So far, the midfielder has loved playing for her new manager.
“He’s a very good man; very kind,” said Lagonia. “He’s very welcoming but he’s a great coach too. You want to do really well for the coaching staff because they put a lot of effort into it and don’t always get the greatest results.”
The squad practises three times per week and help local schools’ soccer sessions in gym class.
“Training sessions are really sharp … so it’s very intense and very competitive because you only have so much time to show the coaches you’re ready and prepared for the game.”
The Rovers Belles play out of Keepmoat Stadium and the weekly matches are sometimes picked up by ESPN.
Lagonia isn’t yet sure of her agenda once October rolls around and the season comes to a close.
“I don’t know yet. The plan would be to come home but I might want to stay in Europe and do some travelling and maybe have another opportunity in a different league,” said the Canadian all-star.