When you look through the University of Cincinnati women’s soccer roster, many of the talent on the field for the Bearcats comes from the Ohio area.
However, there is a recruiting hotbed the Bearcats have acquired across the border.
Six players on the roster come from the Canadian province of Ontario, with five generating from the Toronto area.
Head coach Neil Stafford believes the relationships he built in the past have helped him create a recruiting base in the area.
“I had strong relationships in Canada from my time at my former school,” Stafford said. “I felt like I brought those with me down to here and then was able to sort of continue to cultivate those. I think Matt [Cosinuke] has taken that and really run with it.”
Junior Cassie Wheldon, a native of Waterloo, Ontario, feels that the coaches’ personalities helped just as much as their connections when it came to getting her on campus.
“I know they have a lot of connections with the coaches that I grew up playing with,” Wheldon said. “I think who they are as people also helps them recruit people from Canada and people from around where I live.”
Stafford mentioned that recruiting players from Canada can be tricky, especially when considering the extra costs that often come with bringing in international players.
“With Canadians, most of them need financial assistance, so you have to be sure as [heck] that you have the right kid. I think thus far, apart from injuries, we have done well with our Canadian kids,” Stafford said.
Of the six, three of Stafford’s Canadian-born players are regulars in the starting lineup, headlined by preseason conference Defensive Player of the Year Vanessa Gilles.
Director of Recruiting Matt Cosinuke attributes their ability to target successful players to the characteristics they look for in every player UC recruits to the program.
“Across the board, they have to be confident,” Cosinuke said. “They have to show that they have personality on the field, that they are able to make an impact on the game.”
While the Canadian players have made the seamless transition to American soccer for the Bearcats on the field, it can be tough for international players to get acclimated with a different culture, according to Wheldon.
“It was a huge adjustment moving here,” Wheldon said. “There’s little things that I really had to adjust to. The way I talk, the way people talk here was a huge adjustment for me. Nothing really shocked me here, I kind of expected everything, nothing is too different. It definitely was an adjustment coming here.”
Stafford is proud of the way his players have eased the adjustment for his foreign players.
“I think our players go above and beyond with kids that are from a distance, whether it be California or Colorado or Canada,” Stafford said. “I’m really proud of what our players do for our kids who are coming from a distance or coming from a different country.”
Cosinuke credits the Canadian players with helping to turn around the program, which is helping him with his goal of recruiting more local talent.
“The biggest priority for us is recruiting in the Cincinnati area,” Cosinuke said. “To be sustainable, you have to attract the best local talent. I think what we have been able to do the last couple years is to attract that next level of talent in Canada.”
“When we arrived at UC, one of the hardest places to recruit was Cincinnati, because of how the program was perceived," Stafford said. "We were attracting our Ohio talent from a little further away, but as we have gotten better, we've been able to keep that local talent here in Cincinnati. These are super-talented, high character student-athletes and I'm beyond excited that they'll have the honor and privilege of wearing Cincinnati."
All of UC’s Canadian talent, along with the local kids, will be back in action Thursday when they take on Northern Kentucky University in the Riverboat Rivalry at 7 p.m. in Highland Heights.