‘This team can win a national championship’: New Tommies women’s soccer coach with big goals

Portrait of the new St. Thomas University Women's Soccer Team coach David Itoafa. (Submitted: Keith Minchin)

The St. Thomas University women’s soccer team is taking on a new coach this season; David Itoafa is welcoming his first experience as a university-level coach. 

After a bittersweet 2022-23 season where the STU women’s soccer team lost in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletics Association (ACAA) semifinals, the Tommies are back and ready to take on a brand-new vision. 

Getting to know the Man

Born and raised in Fredericton, Itoafa last coached the Fredericton District Soccer Association U15 boys team. He played at a professional level with ASC Oțelul Galați in Romania, after playing for Siena College, a Division I National College Athletics Association university in the United States.

“It was a blessing to have those experiences and to have people believe in me and help me get to that level,” said Itoafa. 

When it came to coaching for STU, Itoafa confessed that Tommies men’s soccer coach, John-Ryan Morrison, had a great influence on his decision. While he hesitated originally, he met with Morrison and they spoke about his vision for the team. 

“I never saw a group that was so close,” said coach Itoafa, referring to last year’s women’s soccer team. 

He admired how the players were kind and appreciative to each other and those in their community. 

A new face for the program

Even though the season has just begun, Itoafa has already started revolutionizing the program, bringing in a new defensive strategy and communication style. 

“We want to build the most compassionate and most professional program in the country,” he said.

He said one of the team’s biggest strengths last season was their ability to score, but they struggled most in their back lines. They finished the season having conceded the third most goals in the league. 

“I almost felt that we had to do the Mourinho-style,” said Itoafa, describing a camp focused on defending.  

“Let’s get this team united and celebrating, like the Italians when they have a clean sheet,” he added. 

Itoafa has a solid idea of the kind of team he wants to build; a team based on the values of consistency, accountability, passion and empathy. 

“We want to be a coaching staff that takes every player, makes them feel important and valued, and … take them to the next level,” said Itoafa. 

For this season, coach Itoafa worked side-to-side with his predecessor, Michelle DeCourcey, in the process of recruiting new players. 

He believes one of DeCourcey’s last signings, Caitlyn Steeves, has potential to be one of the best soccer players that has dressed for St. Thomas. 

With a new formation and tactics based on the high press, coach Itoafa’s expectations for this season are to improve last year’s mark and finish the ACAA season in the top three. He says the mindset has been to play without fear. 

“We’re trying to set the standard [that] we know how we play and who we are,” he said. 

Besides his specific defensive strategy, the overarching message is that Itoafa has confidence in this year’s team. 

“This team can win a national championship.”

Team captains Abby Cameron and Ginny Phillips couldn’t be happier to work with Itoafa and the team he has brought with him. 

“He’s just so excited to get started and you can tell that he really just loves the game and loves being able to share his soccer knowledge,” said Phillips. 

The two also acknowledged new assistant coach Isaac Phillips, who works on their video training and gives feedback on their highlights. 

With Itoafa focusing on defence, Cameron says she thinks their defensive game has improved. 

“I feel like we have been strong defensively, just now we need to get up the field,” she said. 

The team admires Itoafa’s communication style, as he gives pointers to players on the field so they can fix mistakes right away. 

“He is very positive even when he’s making criticism,” said Cameron. 

Ginny Phillips echoed this statement, adding that even though “people like getting criticism in different ways, I feel like David does it in such a positive way.”