Santa has been kind to London City Lady Selects, leaving them quite the Christmas present under the tree.
The Selects of the Canadian Professional Soccer League women's division announced the signing of Natalie D'Oria yesterday.
D'Oria played virtually every minute last season for the rival W-League London Gryphons.
D'Oria, 18, was on the field for 882 of the 900 minutes played by the Gryphons in the United Soccer League's U.S.-based W-League. She also attended Florida Atlantic University on a scholarship and was named to the second team all-Atlantic Sun Conference and to the Atlantic Sun all-Freshman Team.
Before leaving for Florida Atlantic, she won a number of Thames Valley Region high school awards.
She is a provincial team player and a likely candidate for national team camps.
"We consider Natalie D'Oria a real find in our building process," said Ryan Gauss, general manager of the Selects. "She is a star player."
D'Oria's addition will make a strong team stronger. London City lost only one game in the division's inaugural season, dominating most opponents. But the loss came in the championship game.
D'Oria said she was happy with the Gryphons, but wanted to play Canadian professional soccer in a league that didn't travel a great deal and would give her a chance to see how women's Canadian professional soccer was developing.
"I didn't really want to do all that travelling," she said. "My old team plays a lot of games in the States and I'm in the States eight months of the year. I didn't need to do that all year. You were gone four days out of the week, busing there and back. We'd leave Thursday and be getting back Sunday early in the morning and it would be really draining. Here, it will be nice to be playing locally.
"I knew going down (to Florida) that I wanted to play locally when I came back, because I'm only back three months of the year and I didn't want to be all over the place again.
"But soccer is soccer no matter where you play. This level is just as competitive as where I was playing. It was a difficult decision to make. I was very excited when I made it."
D'Oria also is looking forward to having the opportunity of playing with Eva Havaris, a top woman player in London who led the Selects. It was one of the deciding factors in her signing with London City.
"I know Eva," said D'Oria. "I like the idea I'll be playing with her again. She has so much soccer experience. I played with her before when I was younger and I just like the idea that I would be playing in the middle with her again. I learned a lot from her."
Gauss learned a great deal as the general manager of the team and as a result, he's strengthened the staff.
"It was a remarkable season, but I learned that you need to build and grow if you don't want to be left in the dust," he said.
Gauss has brought on Mike Herman as an assistant general manager. Last year, Herman was the head coach and manager of the under-21 women's Ontario Cup silver medallists with the London City Lady Vets.
Also joining the staff is Nick D'Oria, Natalie's father. He will be the head scout and management consultant. D'Oria is head coach of the Regina Mundi boys team and coached at various other levels, including as an assistant with Western's women's team.
Also joining London City Lady Selects is Laurie Workman, who is known for her work on the Henderson international soccer tournament. She'll become the director of public relations.
Whether the structure of the women's division in the CPSL will change remains to be seen. Stan Adamson of the CPSL was at the news conference and indicated there was a new atmosphere of co-operation between the Ontario Soccer Association and the CPSL about forming a women's league, rather than just a division.
"There was some resistance and hostility last year," Adamson said. "That hostility has dissipated."
But there's still no news as to whether the OSA will support the move to a woman's league.