Written by Nic Fraraccio // Graphic by Wagner Valdez
The Harding women’s soccer team hosted the number one rated soccer scholarship program in Canada March 18 for an off-season exhibition game.
The Lady Bisons defeated the Toronto Blizzard 14-0 to kick off their off-season schedule. The game between Harding and Toronto was one of 14 games in the Blizzard’s annual United States collegiate road trip. This was the first time the club traveled to the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Playing in Ontario’s top PRO-AM (Professional Amateur) development league, the Toronto Blizzard trains players at a higher level of intensity to gear student-athletes toward obtaining college scholarships.
The Blizzard are currently coached by Joe Parolini, a former manager for the 2011 Canadian women’s World Cup team. Parolini said it is beneficial for his team to play against experienced college teams and coaches.
“Getting the coaches to see and watch all of our players perform against their players is massive,” Parolini said.
Parolini’s team played against multiple Division I and Division II schools, including Ouachita Baptist University, the University of Memphis and the University of Vanderbilt.
Harding has hosted the Blizzard on multiple occasions since 2014, but the meeting between the teams this year was a special occasion.
Sophomore Lauren Service played against the Toronto Blizzard for the first time since playing for the club in 2020. The midfielder from Oakville, Ontario, has participated in the annual road trip with the Blizzard. Service scored four goals in the exhibition victory.
Service said it was a great feeling to score against her former team but also praised the performance of the Lady Bisons.
“It’s less about me getting to play against my team but more about us trying to see the work that we have put in,” Service said.
Lady Bisons head coach Greg Harris said it was incredible to see Service’s growth on display in front of her former coach.
“She’s stronger, she’s faster, and she’s more confident,” Harris said. “I’m asking her to do different things than what she was asked to do at the Toronto Blizzard.”
Harris also said the exhibition was a memorable moment for Service and said he hopes other members of the Lady Bisons will interact with their former teams in the future.
“That’s neat for someone like her to be able to have that experience,” Harris said. “You kind of wish all these girls would be able to go back and play against their club teams.”
The Lady Bisons and Toronto Blizzard expect to continue their annual exhibition match over the next couple of seasons.
As the fall season approaches, Harris said the team is continuing to improve and strengthen throughout the off-season.
“They’re making me work my tail off to continue to push them to be a championship team,” Harris said.