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    Captain to Coach: Pilots Men’s Soccer Welcomes Giovanni Benitez Friesen

    Courtesy of Providence University Athletics:

    The following story is courtesy of Providence University Athletics from August 4, 2023

    Providence Athletics is pleased to announce Giovanni Benitez Friesen as the new head coach of the Providence Pilots Men’s Soccer and Futsal program.

    Benitez’s coaching influences are inspired by some of his many stops as an elite, amateur player in Manitoba and an aspiring professional in Paraguay. His development started in Brandon, where Benitez was a high-performing youth player with Westman FC. Additional youth opportunities followed at CCSE (Chico’s School of Soccer Excellence) and Portage Trails (now St. Charles Force) in Winnipeg, before Benitez explored amateur and professional opportunities in South America in 2015 and again in 2018.

    Benitez returned to Manitoba in 2017 when he began his collegiate playing career with Providence and the central midfielder made an immediate and ongoing impact. During his decorated four-year career with the Pilots, Benitez helped the dually-affiliated program to two NCCAA regional banners (2017, 2019), while earning individual recognitions as a regional all-star in 2019, 2021 and 2022, and as a second-team all-American in 2022.

    North of the border, Benitez received MCAC all-conference honours in 2019, 2021 and 2022. Finally, Providence Athletics voted him Pilot of the Year in 2020, Men’s Soccer Team MVP in 2021 and Benitez donned the captain’s armband for his side from 2020 to until his senior year.

    On the coaching side, Benitez is admittedly far less experienced. Officially, the new Pilots head coach has worked as a volunteer coach with Hanover Soccer and more recently with Performance Soccer Academy.

    “Our committee was impressed with Gio’s vision for the program, passion for the way he would like the team to play and familiarity with everything about Pilots soccer; from the conference, to the players, to the coaches that he will now join the ranks of”, said Russell Willms, who himself is very new to Providence, serving as the Director of Athletics since June. “The clubs and Providence coaches that Gio has developed under, have positioned him well to lead a collegiate soccer program like ours. He understands the nuances that make coaches successful in a university environment. In addition, he knows the current roster and I believe that as the team leader that he is even now, he can quite naturally transition roles; from player to coach.”

    Supporting Benitez’s transition will be current head coach of the Pilots women’s program, and now coaching colleague, Tory Walker. The long-serving bench boss of the reigning NCCAA Division II National Champions and a recent recipient of his National “B” Coaching License with Canada Soccer, Walker was also a voice of advocacy for Benitez’s application.

    Benitez and the Pilots will kickoff their 2023 NCCAA campaign in Minneapolis against North Region rivals, Faith Baptist and North Central University, August 31 and September 1 and return to Manitoba to make their home debut when they host CMU on Saturday, September 9 to launch the 2023 MCAC season.


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