CCAA championship player profiles
A glimpse into some of the heavy hitters coming to town
By Nicholas Naylor
The upcoming CCAA national championship tournament will bring the best players in the league from across the country to compete for the national title.
This season, the CCAA has produced a class of top talent, here’s a look at some of the best players from each of the eight qualifying teams.
Vasilis Bagiopoulos, forward: Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, B.C.
The Mariner’s head coach Kevin Lindo describes Vasilis Bagiopoulos as the team’s “danger man”. As the team’s top goal scorer Bagiopoulos was picked for the PACWEST all-star team. Lindo says Bagiopoulos “demands high expectations of himself and others.” Bagiopoulos proved to the league he can perform at a high level in big games, scoring three goals in the two conference championship games winning gold for the Mariners.
Luca Uccello, midfield: Humber College, Etobicoke, Ont.
Uccello has multiple appearances for the under-18 and under-20 Canadian national team. He signed with the Humber Hawks in 2021 from the semi-pro-team, TCF II. Uccello has been dominant in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association conference this year. Head Coach Michael Aquino says at the midfield, Uccello can create and score goals in attacking and defensive phases. Uccello’s well rounded playing style is displayed all over the stat book, finishing the regular season fourth in goals, first in assists, second in shots, and second in overall points. Uccellowas named player of the year in the OCAA and led the Hawks to a conference first-place finish this year.
Atif Ali, defence: Seneca College, Toronto, Ont.
Ali’s accolades stacked up this year, he was named OCAA conference championship tournament all-star, OCAA east-division all-star, and OCAA east-division player of the year. The Sting’s head coach, Patrice Gheisar, says Ali could be described in one word, “consistent.” Ali’s leadership provides an example for Seneca’s young attacking front. Ali’s playing style is composed, he’s able to keep consistent possession, and has the “vision to open the game up or keep the ball moving,” says Gheisar.
Franck Oumar N’Dia, forward: Université de Saint-Boniface, Winnipeg, Man.
Assistant coach for the Rouges, Yahia Chihab, says N’dia Grew up playing on the streets of the Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast, where he integrated into an academy system as an eight-year-old. N’dia is “clinical in front of the net,” says assistant coach, Chihab. It seemed the clinic was open during the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference gold medal game, with N’dia scoring two goals in a 4-3 upset over the previously number one seeded Brandon University.
Ibrahim Chami, defence, midfield: Montmorency College, Laval, Que.
Chami’s work ethic is described as “unmatchable” by head coach Francisco Vela. In 2021 Chami was called-up to play for the Lebanon national under-20 team. Vela says Chami has a natural left foot, great range on a shot or long ball, and is a great defender. As captain of the team, he “doesn’t hesitate to bring back order,” said Vela.
Mohammad Alhaj Ali, forward: Holland College, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
This year Ali was selected as the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association conference player of the year, Atlantic championship tournament all-star, and picked for the Atlantic conference all-star team. Teammate Clay Kelly says Ali is a “special” player who can put the ball wherever his teammates need, to create goal scoring chances.
Senay Haile, midfield: the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary, Alta.
Head coach Connor Brady describes Haile’s playing style as “fluid.” He makes things look easy, disguises passes’ and takes quick breaks on the ball. Haile is the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference south division player of the year, south Alberta championship tournament all-star, and was selected for the south division all-conference team. Haile scored 11 goals in 10 games making him the season’s top scorer in the south Alberta division.
Takumi Ota, midfield: Langara College, Vancouver, B.C.
Takumi Ota, star of the host team, Langara College, has been named the best player in the Pacific Western Athletic Association conference this year. Coming from a possession-based game in Japan, Ota adjusted well to the more physical game in Canada, scoring nine goals in the regular season for the Falcons, which ties for first in the conference. Ota is known for his speed and ball control, with ability to control the pace of the game.
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