By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
It’s of course only the start of a journey for two Ottawa TFC Soccer Club players who recently signed with NCAA universities, but there’s also a feeling that Jessica Boyle and Riley Bonadie’s youth soccer careers have come full-circle as they prepare to join the Charleston Southern Buccaneers and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, respectively.
The decorated pair have been on the same team since U10, though they both weren’t on the top team at the start of their competitive soccer careers. Bonadie recalls wanting to join some friends on the higher team so she could go to tournaments with them.
“That was my motivation at the time,” explains the striker/midfielder who also played basketball and hockey alongside the boys when she was younger. “I feel like that sparked the journey from a young age.”
Boyle says being on the ‘B’ team “made me work harder.”
“I would work in my basement, doing technical work, maybe three times a week, just to get where everybody else was,” indicates the future graphic design student who remembers “jumping up and down on my bed” when she learned she made the top squad in a later year. “It was just a great memory that I’ll never forget.”
There were piles more unforgettable moments ahead for the pair who were both coached by their fathers at various stages. Their group earned numerous historic club and regional accomplishments over the years, including three Ontario Cups, a national championship and an Ontario Player Development League title this season.
Now coaches for Ottawa TFC themselves, Boyle and Bonadie were delighted to see the way their success inspired the younger players they instruct.
“All the girls were like, ‘Man, we can do that too!’ – they said that to me,” recounts Bonadie. “It was huge to see the impact that had on them.”
Building links between different age groups is a bit of an Ottawa TFC trademark.
“It’s definitely the environment in our club that just makes us thrive,” underlines Bonadie, who’s chosen to study education thanks to her enjoyable experiences coaching. “If you were to come by in the summer on a Friday night and there’s a game on the turf field, the stands are packed and it’s all Ottawa TFC.
“It could be a U14 girls’ team or a U17 boys’ team, everyone is there watching. It’s such a positive environment. You just feel so comfortable. No one is ever left out.”
Having graduating players appreciate and contribute to a strong club culture is music to the ears of Ottawa TFC General Manager Pavel Cancura, who helped his players navigate the difficult challenge of getting recruited to another country during COVID.
“I am a little anxious about leaving home and leaving my comfort zone. I’m not a very social person,” notes Boyle, who chose Charleston Southern in part because their coach has “a very similar personality” to Cancura.
In South Carolina, Boyle will also find fellow Ottawa TFC product Jenea Knight, who played every game in her rookie season. Jordan Lundin, who coached both players since they were young, also provided reassurance.
The Radford University legend told them she had a fun NCAA experience, got a great education while effectively managing studies and soccer like she had in high school, and gave them a fitness plan so they could get ahead of the game and be primed on what to expect.
“I’m really excited,” highlights Boyle, who attended a French school before joining many teammates at St. Peter Catholic High School so she’d be ready to study in English in the U.S.
“When I visited, I felt really welcomed by the coaches and the teammates,” adds the midfielder. “It was just a great atmosphere and team dynamic, and also Charleston Southern is a really nice place – the university is like 20 minutes away from the beach.”
Bonadie has yet to visit Louisiana Tech, though she too is eager to start her next chapter (also inspired in part by winter’s arrival in the capital).
“I’m super anxious and excited – I kind of want to leave, like, today,” signals the St. Peter CHS senior. “I think it’s gonna be a great experience.”