W-League squad kicks off Sunday

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

They kick off against the 10th-ranked women's soccer team in the world -- according to an independent ranking system in England -- but the newly formed London Gryphons feel the W-League title can be theirs.

The Gryphons are one of five Canadian teams in the U.S.-based W-League.

The Gryphons play their first game on Sunday at home against the Fort Wayne Fever, ranked 10th by Women's World Football Rankings, a website that bases its picks on communication with coaches and players.

"Chicago, perennially the strongest team in the league, thinks that us and Fort Wayne will challenge for the title," said Aaron Lauterbach, an assistant coach with the Gryphons.

"The (London players) have an intensity level that they've created that's going to determine our success."

The team will play in the Midwest Division with Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Fort Wayne and West Michigan.

They played an exhibition game a couple of weeks ago against the Toronto Lady Lynx, losing 2-1.

"The Lynx are favoured to win their division (Northern). The Lynx had five national team players and we had 11 players," Lauterbach said. "If we had all of our components, I'm positive that result would have been different."

While the Gryphons have local talent such as forward Cristina Bonasia and midfielder Natalie D'Oria, they've recruited from the Toronto area and also Michigan.

Third-team all-American Kim Dimitroff, an Oakville native who plays for Kent State, will join Bonasia as a striker.

Lauterbach was impressed with goalkeeper Anne Decker -- a Troy, Mich. resident who plays for Central Michigan -- in the exhibition match.

"She made some saves that kept us in the game . . . and changed the momentum for us," he said. "She'll be top three in the league for sure."

After Sunday's game, the Gryphons hit the road for two matches, before returning to London for a game against Chicago on June 5.

Lauterbach hopes soccer fans will come to the home games and encourage his team as they start the season.

"We're relying on the soccer community to step in and support this. On a weekend when London is going to be hockey crazy, we're going to need a pretty passionate soccer person to come out."

GAME GUIDE

London Gryphons' first W-League game, vs. Fort Wayne Fever

When: Sunday, 2:10 p.m.

Where: North London Stadium

Admission: Adults $3, children $2, players wearing jerseys $1

Information: www.londongryphonsoccer.com


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