Who Will Be The U Sports Women’s Coach of The Year
It’s that time of the year where in a couple of hours the National U Sports Women’s Coach of the Year will be announced at the banquet at Queens University in Kingston, ON.
So let’s take a look at the candidates from the four Conferences:
Tino Fusco – Mount Royal University
The Canada West Women’s Soccer Coach of the Year is Mount Royal University Women’s Soccer Head Coach Tino Fusco .
Fusco was named the Canada West Coach of the Year after leading the Mount Royal Cougars to first place in the Prairie Division. The Cougars went into the season ranked 13th in the coaches’ poll, but ended the season defying expectations with a 13-3-1 record.
“What an unexpected honour to be selected by my coaching colleagues for this award – thank you,” Fusco said. “I’d also like to thank my staff for their endless work and sacrifice to this program. Most importantly, thank you to the players, for believing in our system and being great. We did some exceptional things this year TOGETHER! “
Fusco elevated the Cougars’ program to new heights in 2022 after the team finished with losing records in each of their previous seasons since joining Canada West in 2012. His team has showed the league what is possible despite the challenges that come with being a “newer” school in the conference.
Fusco helped his team find ways to succeed in tight games this season while cultivating a winning culture at MRU.
“We are extremely proud of Tino and the progress he’s made as Head Coach of our Cougars Women’s Soccer program,” Rob Godfrey, Associate Director, Varsity Athletics said. “Since our transition to CW and U SPORTS competition in the Fall of 2012, it has not been easy. But Tino, his staff, and our student-athletes continued to invest in a high performance culture that has really paid off in the last few seasons. The 2022 CW season is a culmination of a lot of belief, hard work, sacrifice and tough decisions. We very much look forward to continued growth and success with our program on and off the field.”
Despite the Cougars women’s soccer team’s heartbreaking, double overtime, penalty kick loss on Saturday, Oct. 29 against the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack in the Canada West Women’s Soccer Quarter-finals, Fusco and the Cougars are determined to rebound strong in the 2023-24 season and continue with their winning culture.
Garrett Peters – OUA West Coach of The Year
In his first season as Head Coach of the McMaster Marauders, Garrett Peters has been named the 2023 OUA West Coach of the Year, leading the Marauders to an 8-2-2 regular season record, the team’s winningest performance in five years.
Under their rookie head coach, McMaster recorded 32 goals for while only allowing 11 goals against. The team led the conference in shot percentage (.246) and ranked third in both assists (24) and shots on goal percentage (.754). Prior to joining the Marauders, Peters was announced as the new head coach of FC London’s League1 Women’s Team in September 2022. In addition to coaching League1 soccer, Peters also has extensive experience in Saskatchewan, beginning as an Assistant Coach with the Saskatchewan Regional Excel Program (REX) from 2018 to 2020. He then became an Assistant Coach with Team Saskatchewan in 2021 for the Western Canada Summer Games.
Peters, who won a Canada West Championship as a student-athlete with the Saskatchewan Huskies in 2014, coached five of his players to OUA West All-Star honours in his inaugural U SPORTS season, including four first-team selections.
The Saskatchewan local becomes just the third Marauders’ coach to be awarded Coach of the Year and the first to do so since 2010.
Dave McDowell – Queens University Golden Gales
Dave McDowell has been named the 2023 OUA East Coach of the Year.
It was another prolific season for the Limestone City squad, and at the helm of the team’s successful campaign was Dave McDowell, the OUA East coach of the year.
The veteran coach led his team to a second-ranked offensive performance on the pitch, notching 52 goals on the season, good for four per game. The team also ranked second in shots per game and third in shot percentage, not only maximizing their opportunities, but capitalizing on them at a consistent clip. Beyond their shining work offensively, they were stout defensively as well, having allowed a league-low three goals on the season. In fact, there were only two games in which the Gaels conceded a goal, as they racked up 10 clean sheets along the way.
McDowell, a multi-time OUA coach of the year, also led six of his student-athletes to all-star status this season, including four staking claims to first-team spots.
McDowell helped Queen’s finish second in the OUA East Division standings with a 10-1-1 record. Queen’s also finished second in the conference in offence this season, with 45 goals through 12 games, and first in the conference in defence, allowing just three goals all season. This is a repeat of 2022 when in his 35th season as Head Coach of Queen’s Women’s Soccer, McDowell was named OUA East Division Coach of the Year after leading the Gaels to a 9-0-3 record and the OUA Semifinals.
McDowell led the Gaels to an OUA Championship in 2021, their sixth Conference Championship with McDowell at the helm. Queen’s also won the Consolation Final at the U SPORTS Women’s Soccer Championship that season.
A two-time CIS/U SPORTS Coach of the Year and seven-time OUA Coach of the Year, McDowell has also guided the Gaels to three national championships, in 1988, 2010 and 2011.
Under his guidance, Queen’s has posted a combined regular season record of 281-59-86, has never had a losing season or missed the Conference Playoffs, and has advanced to the National Championships 15 times.
The Gaels have allowed 10 or more goals in the regular season only 10 times over his 30+ years at the helm of the program. Offensively, McDowell’s squads are consistently among the league leaders in the nation, highlighted by a team-record 55 goals in 2012.
Jose-Luis Valdes – McGill Martlets
Jose-Luis Valdes of the McGill Martlets was named the RSEQ conference coach of the year in women soccer.
Valdes wins the conference coaching honour for the first time in his 11 years (10 seasons) as bench boss of the program. This marks the ninth time that a Martlets coach has won this award and the first since Marc Mounicot in 2009, when he also claimed the national trophy. Valdes, a 42-year-old native of Montreal, guided his troops to a 6-3-5 third-place finish in league play this season. His Martlets took points off every team in the league, including a 1-1 draw against division-leading Laval and a 1-0 victory over second-place Montreal. He was appointed head coach at McGill in 2013 and has guided the Martlets to a 64-46-30 record in 140 regular season contests. Prior to taking over the reins, he served 11 seasons (2001 to 2011) as an assistant coach with the team. During his playing days, he was a goalkeeper for the McGill men’s team from 2001 to 2004, before graduating in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in physical and health education. He has had several international stints as an assistant coach, including the Canadian women’s soccer squad at three FISU World University Summer Games, in Italy (2019), Taipei (2017) and South Korea (2015).
Graham Kennedy – STFX X-Women
STFX X-Women head coach Graham Kennedy has been selected by his peers as the AUS women’s soccer coach of the year for the second time in his career. He first earned the honour in 2019.
In his eleventh season as head coach of the X-Women program, Coach Kennedy led the team to an undefeated 12-0-0 record, a first-place finish in the regular season standings and a first-round playoff bye through to the championship semifinals.
The U SPORTS Number 5 ranked X-Women were the only team in the nation to win all of their regular season games and they allowed just three goals against all season—a league and U SPORTS best—for a goals against average of 0.25.
They managed a league-leading nine shutouts this season and finished with 48 goals (tied with Cape Breton for the most in the conference).
Kennedy now becomes the Atlantic conference nominee for the U SPORTS coach of the year award. Cape Breton Capers head coach Stephen “Ness” Timmons is the most recent coach from the Atlantic conference to earn the national honor (in 2017).