Volume 96, Issue 14
Friday, September 20, 2002

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Western soccer's little Italy
Bonasia has quickly made her mark on field

By Jordan Bell
Gazette Staff

Beth Kerim/Gazette

THERE'S NO STOPPIN' THIS GIRL. Western Mustang Cristina Bonasia is a key part of the Western women's soccer team gunning for a national title this season.

It's no wonder Cristina Bonasia plays soccer.

"I come from a big Italian family," Bonasia said. "I started playing soccer in my grandpa's backyard."

Last year, Bonasia jumped on to the Canadian university soccer scene faster than a fat guy on a pancake. The Western Mustangs' second-year striker scored 12 goals and lugged home an enormous amount of personal recognition. Bonasia was awarded the Ontario University Athletics and Canadian Interuniversity Sport Rookie of the Year and was voted an OUA and CIS All-Canadian.

The Mustangs' spark-plug started the season on injured reserve after her wisdom teeth were extracted, but came back strong. Furthermore, all indications point to another solid playoff drive for the 'Stangs.

Unlike most athletes who excel at a particular sport, Bonasia didn't start performing her craft competitively until later in life – Grade 11 of high school to be exact. She made immediate headway, though.

"[Cristina's] drive and motivation to become a better player and person has made a big difference," said Mike Van Bussel, assistant coach of the Mustangs women's soccer team. "She has some very strong physical skills, but I think the thing that separates her is the motivation and drive to make herself better."

Mustangs women's soccer head coach Mark Eys echoed Van Bussel's comments about his prized sophomore. "Her commitment to the game is second to none – she continuously looks to improve herself," he said.

If their is one aspect of the Italian culture everyone should strive to duplicate it's their undying support for family. Bonasia's story is clearly one of close ties.

"I'm very family oriented," Bonasia said. "My family and friends are the people that bring the best out in me."

Van Bussel further described the effect of a solid foundation on Bonasia. "She has a very strong sense of family values. The environment she has come from really bodes well for her future – her parents are very supportive of her."

Bonasia was born and bred in London, helping her high school team, the St. Thomas Aquinas Flames, win the gold medal in the OFSAA AAA championships in her senior year. She described herself as a shy kid in high school, but admitted she has become more outgoing as she's aged. She also revealed the woman you see burying soccer balls in the net isn't the only side of her personality.

"I'm a very sensitive and emotional person," Bonasia said. "It's something people probably wouldn't know about me because they just see me acting tough on the field."

Bonasia has won at the high school level and she has competed with the best in Canada at the national team coaching clinics this past summer, but one thing eludes her grasp thus far, and it's what drives the entire women's soccer program.

"We know what it's like to get to a certain point and lose," Bonasia said, referring to last year's 1-0 loss to Queens University in the OUA semi-final that eliminated Western from advancing to the national championships. "Essentially, the goal is to get to the nationals and come home with the championship," she said.

Considering where she has come from and the supporting cast around her, the odds are definitely in the 'Stangs favour – and that big Italian family will probably be there to see it all.

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2002 THE GAZETTE