By Anthony Lopopolo
The coach of the women’s soccer team is coming under fire from former players who accuse him of creating a negative environment and holding players back.
Two of the five veterans who left last season revealed damaging accounts about their time under coach Peyvand Mossavat to the Eyeopener.
Tessa Dimitrakopoulos, who left Mossavat after arguments over a missing cell phone, dug deeper into her issues with the coach and how he drove her out of the team.
“There were too many headaches from the players and the coach,” she said.
The team missed the playoffs for the second year in a row due to the absence of players like Dimitrakopoulos, Ontario University Athletics all-star and former rookie of the year in 2006.
After Dimitrakopoulos was offered a spot on a semi-professional soccer club in Toronto, she said Mossavat discouraged her from taking the opportunity. Instead, he wanted her to commit her summer to playing on a team with other players from Ryerson.
“It made me feel pretty bad,” she said. “He didn’t support me and it was a good chance for me.”
When asked if she would play if Mossavat was replaced, she said yes. “I miss playing university soccer, but I don’t miss playing under him,” Dimitrakopoulos said.
That sentiment was echoed by thirdyear student Kristen Horgan Smith, who couldn’t tolerate Mossavat’s approach to the game. She said that most players – including those who continued to be part of the team this season – held the same opinion.
“We played in a toxic environment and I found [Mossavat] to be very manipulative. The players were getting their spirits crushed on a daily basis,” said Smith. “It was so easy to get in fights when everyone was under so much stress.”
Smith said the players aren’t at fault and have the ability to achieve much more. “It’s really unfortunate because everyone on the team comes in with a lot of talent, and within a couple of months of playing for the team, they lose it all. It took me about a year to get back my confidence that I had before I came,” she said.
However, Mossavat feels there are going to be disagreements on a team and testifies that those who left share a minority opinion of him.
“As the star of the team – whether you’re Andrea Raso or Meagan Blodgett – nobody’s bigger than the team. As a team, we have some philosophies; we have some values we’ve set in place. I won’t compromise any star,” he said.
He argues that Dimitrakopoulos and Smith are casting a negative shadow on the program, in which he still sees lots of passion.
“People are saying there’s a much different number in players from last year to this year,” said Mossavat. “People don’t talk about, let’s say, the one player (Kendra Welham) we lost to academics, who’s dying to come back next year.
“But I will never sacrifice a team for one individual player. I’m willing to move forward with less talent, potentially, to make sure that we hold those values and traditions strong.”
Athletic director Ivan Joseph doesn’t think it’s correct to blame either party.
“I want our coaches to demand a lot out of our players. If they choose not to pursue it, it’s time to go. Personalities are going to butt heads,” said Joseph.
“I don’t know if I’m keeping a closer eye on Peyvand, but I pay attention to all my coaches.”