There are some sizable holes in the lineup of Canada’s reigning senior women’s soccer champions.

 

Halifax City Pacifico — previously named Salty’s — kicks off the Nova Scotia Soccer League Premiership season on Sunday without Nkem Ezurike, Katie Prowse, Sarah d’Apollonia, Melissa Gaudet and Erica and Mary Beth Bowie.

 

The six all-star calibre talents combined for 15 of City’s 25 goals last summer and played key roles in the club’s run to the Jubilee Trophy in St. John’s, N.L., last October.

 

Prowse and Mary Beth Bowie, both former winners of the league’s Golden Boot award as top goal scorer, are taking the summer off. Ezurike and Gaudet are ineligible to play until August as members of the provincial Canada Games team.

“We’re certainly different from last year,” said City head coach Carl Hayre. “We’ve lost some key players, but we’ve picked up some key players. We’ll take the season as it comes but by provincials, I think we’ll be our strongest.”

Newcomers include Ottawa Gee Gees standout Alex Persichino, Cape Breton Capers all-Canadian Hannah Abenheimer and Sharon Cummings from the Canadian Forces ranks. Returnees such as all-star defender Ally Read, a seven-year veteran, have seen turnover like this before.

“It’s nothing new,” said Read, who has won gold, silver and bronze medals at nationals.

“Rather than look at it as a series of losses, you have to take the group of girls that is here and look at everyone as a positive addition. If you don’t, you’ll perpetually be looking at every team as an empty roster.”

Perhaps the biggest boost will come in August when Ezurike — a national under-17 team star who scored twice in the Jubilee Trophy final — and Gaudet rejoin the team.

That should help Halifax City peak at the right time. That’s what happened last year. The club stumbled through a sub-.500 summer but enjoyed a remarkable playoff run.

“The pressure will be on,” Hayre said.

“But I certainly feel we’re capable of getting to nationals again.”

“You can have an up-and-down season,” added Read. “As long as you win at provincials, that’s all that counts.”