Greater Trail soccer player Nolan DeRosa will join the Wolfpack in Kamloops, following a commitment last week to attend Thompson River University and play for the Canada West CIS squad.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said DeRosa. “I’ve always wanted to play at a university level of soccer, and as soon as Thompson River started looking at me, I really took it seriously and wanted to go there.”
DeRosa has trained with the Whitecaps FC Kootenay Academy (WFCKA) in Nelson for the past two years, and became one of its first success stories after committing to play for TRU.
“Nolan is the first of the domino affect I think,” said WFCKA coach Brett Adams. “We’re still hopeful that a few more players this season will get places. It’s our first year that we’ve actually tried to move players onto the university, and, like I said, Nolan’s probably the first that is going to have a few follow in his footsteps.”
The 17-year-old J.L. Crowe student attended TRU’s player ID camp April 11-12, where 35 players took to the manicured pitch at Hillside Stadium and were put through a grueling weekend of practice and play. Although matched up against older players, DeRosa made an impression on Wolfpack soccer coach John Antulov during the camp, and the former Vancouver 86er extended the invitation for DeRosa to join the Pack.
“He very much reminds me of a younger Austin Scheebeli (Salmon Arm) when he got here three years ago,” said Antulov in a release. “It will take him time to adjust as he hasn’t played against these players on a consistent basis. I believe he has the ability and the work ethic to adjust quickly.”
In the annals of Trail sport, hockey, baseball, and fastball players routinely commit to CIS or NCAA universities, but few soccer players have had that opportunity.
“It’s been kind of weird being the only kid growing up whose been really competitive at soccer,” said DeRosa. “They (WFCKA) have been a huge help to me, and coach Brett Adams is the main reason why I’ve been improving and continuing to play at such a good level of soccer, and the reason why I’m able to go to Kamloops next year.”
The Whitecaps Academy expanded to the Kootenays in 2013, and, with its centre in Nelson, attracted players from around the West Kootenay including DeRosa and another Trail native Paige Gattafoni – a goaltender who was named to the All Star team at last month’s Whitecaps FC Showcase in Vancouver.
WFCKA identifies skilled players and takes their game to the next level, through camps, training combines, and tournaments throughout the Kootenays, Okanagan, Vancouver, and Washington. The training, travel, and competing at higher levels has certainly paid dividends for players like DeRosa, and exposure to university recruiters will surely mean there will be more WFCKA players to follow.
“He’s very, very skillful, he’s quick, and he’s good with the ball at his feet,” said Adams. “He’s an exciting player to watch especially when he gets moving with that ball, we think something good is going to happen. That’s why he’s caught the eye of the TRU head coach.”
The Wolfpack play in the Canada West University Athletic Association’s Pacific Division against teams from UBC, UBC-Okanagan, University of Victoria, Trinity Western, UNBC, and University of Fraser Valley. DeRosa will join the team Aug. 1 with the Pack’s first game already scheduled for Aug. 20 against UNBC Timberwolves.
“Nolan will definitely have to work and compete,” says Antulov. “My midfield group will be very strong for the upcoming season but I believe it will be great for him to learn from the players that are here. His game will grow immensely. He is a central midfielder that is very versatile.”
While cracking the opening 11 may be a stretch in his first year with the Wolfpack, DeRosa is excited about the opportunity to elevate his game to the next level and embrace the new challenge.
“I’m looking forward to just getting the chance to play with kids that are at that level already and gaining experience from them,” he said. “Besides that, just train, and try to stay in the best shape as I can. You know it’s going to be a big jump to play at the CIS level.”
DeRosa will work towards a business degree while attending TRU.