On August 5, the League1 Ontario team, Alliance United, was awarded its first Premier Women’s Division Trophy in a 2–1 victory against National Development Centre Ontario. The team consists of Varsity Blues finest: seven alumnae, four current Varsity Blues staff, and 12 Blues women’s soccer players, all led to triumph by head coach Angelo Cavalluzzo.
“[That feeling] can’t even be described honestly… Alliance was phenomenal,” said Valentina Greco, who plays fullback for the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team at the University of Toronto. Greco used to play as a midfielder but started adjusting to her new position when playing for Alliance. “[The positions are] very different, I will say that,” Greco said in an interview with The Varsity. “I do, of course, miss playing in the midfield, but I like [playing] where I am right now.”
Greco’s journey to find her place on the field started when she was six years old. Her father was an avid soccer player and wished to pass on his love of the sport to her. “My family says that on my very first soccer game, I cried my eyes out the whole time. I took my dad’s hand and ran up and down the field. I begged him to get me out of here as fast as he possibly could.”
“[Then] he made me a deal,” she said. “He was like, ‘If you score a goal, we don’t ever have to come back if you don’t want to.’ So, I went on the field and I decked out all the six-year-olds and scored a goal.”
“The next week came along, and I was like I really want to go back… that was kind of fun.”
Greco never looked back. From that point on, Greco became a student athlete, now competing in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) with the Blues and in League1 Ontario with Alliance United.
After years of practice, Greco has become an aggressive player, focusing on her quick thinking on the ball. Like many other young soccer players, she idolizes Cristiano Ronaldo’s philosophy of hard work over talent.
Furthermore, her new position as a fullback has given her a different perspective on the game and helped her identify her weaknesses and play to her strengths. When playing as a midfielder, Valentina was used to playing short passes, but is now adjusting to keeping her head up and being attentive in order to play longer passes as a fullback. Greco’s glad to take on the challenges that come with now playing fullback.
Greco emphasized how playing in League1 — Canada’s pro-am women’s soccer league — was, by far, her most significant experience. “It feels like I’m reminiscing, kind of, because that [League1] team was kind of the same [Blues] team that I had at my very first year of university. So a lot of the [Blues] graduates — I got to play with them again.”
“[Those teammates] used to look at me as a baby,” Greco said. “And now… I’m a fifth year technically, [and] it feels like we have a lot more in common.”
League1 is a stepping stone between high-performing amateur youth and professional stars of the Canadian soccer industry. Given the age differences of the players, their competitive spirit, and the team’s rigorous training schedule, playing with Alliance has not only helped players like Greco to improve their game but also helped them gain fresh perspectives. Players then passed these new perspectives onto others who played in the OUA to teach the up-and-comers of women’s soccer.
“A lot of [these] people are now coaching their own teams. So having them lead by example and coach me on the field [with Alliance] allows me to be better as a player,” Greco explained. “When I transitioned back to the OUA, I kind of take everything they’ve taught me and hopefully give that to the younger girls that are coming in their first and second year.”
As Greco is in her last year of undergraduate studies, completing a Bachelor in Business Administration in management and financial studies, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree at U of T and continue playing with the Varsity Blues. “I don’t know if I’d play for another school unless it was a perfect opportunity,” she explained.
Greco also plans to continue playing in League1, especially if her previous team decides to stay together. “I’ll probably hang up the boots when [my teammates] decide to hang up the boots and end on a good note.”