London News & Search
Emily Gillet hasn’t been scored against in a month.
But she would rather talk about her nickname on the stingy — and surging again — FC London women’s soccer team.
“They call me the Crazy Aunt,” the veteran goalkeeper said. “Denise Fortin and I, we started this journey together last year. We never thought we would be playing semi-pro at ages 30 (Gillet) and 33 (Fortin). She’s one of the best players in (League1 Ontario) and she has three kids. So she’s our ‘Momma.’ I’m the ‘Crazy Aunt’ and we have a bunch of little sisters.
“It’s a great dynamic.”
She chalks up her gaudy statistics — four straight clean sheets in regular-season play and two more in back-stopping the squad to next month’s League Cup final — to the cruel passage of time.
“I always say the bigger I am, the more net I take up,” she quipped, “and as I get older, I just get a little better, so it’s all good.”
After rolling to a league title by winning 14 of 16 in their inaugural season, there was some concern early in Year Two. FC London suffered two defeats and a tie in its first five matches.
“We lost two games later on in the season last year,” Gillet said, “and this time, we decided to mix it up and lose two right off the bat. But we won’t lose again, so it’s OK.”
Last season, the bulk of the team had worked out together since February. Most of them were still in high school. But this year, a lot of them returned to the fold after their first university go-round and needed a couple of weeks to get back in the groove.
Lately, they have restored their devastating quick-pass and possession-style game.
Gillet still sees a healthy volume of shots, but she humbly regards herself as an insurance policy — ready to help if disaster strikes.
“I really don’t do anything,” she said. “It’s a goalie’s dream. You have girls in front of me like Meghan Scott and Morgan Blair — if you can get past them, seriously, congratulations. Everyone talks about Jade (Kovacevic) and how many goals she scores, but she’s overlooked defensively. A lot of strikers will give up when they lose the ball, she back-presses and steals it back.
“And if teams want to try us down the wings, we have Cierra Thomas and Jenna Hong to shut them down. By the time they get to me, what net do they have to look at?”
Gillet figured she was done after last year’s triumph. She has a full-time job at National Sports as a shipper/receiver and has taken on coaching the younger keepers in FC London’s academy.
“Mike (head coach Mike Marcoccia) took a chance on some old farts like Denise and I to join a brand-new team in a league of majority 19- and 20-year-olds,” she said. “We said we’d do it for one year. But we love our teammates so much, we decided to come back again. We wanted to prove to everybody our first year wasn’t a fluke.
“It’s such a great environment. It’s addicting. It’s really hard to leave, even though my body keeps saying, ‘You can’t do this anymore’.”
Marcoccia built the women’s program from the back out. It required a lot of faith by the players.
“Most of girls’ soccer is boot-and-run,” said Gillet, who assisted Marcoccia with Fanshawe’s college team, her alma mater, last fall, “but Mike wanted to try a whole new technique — play a system you see at Barcelona or Real Madrid. He asked us to believe in what he was doing and everyone bought in. You look at other teams we play, they’re swearing at each other or their coach, and it’s super negative.
“We get angry and want to fix mistakes, but we’ve become good friends and can’t stop talking to each other.”
Just steer clear of Gillet when the games starts.
“That’s when I’m a mean person,” she said. “I’ve got this look to me that scares little children. Thankfully, the girls at the academy know, so when I come off the field, then I’m cool coach Gillet.”
And if the ‘Crazy Aunt’ starts discussing shutouts, they would be wise to listen up.
All-star call: FC London forward Elvir Gigolaj and defender Aaron Schneebeli were named to the League1 Ontario men’s all-star team that will face Quebec league stars Wednesday at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
London News & Search