Women’s soccer players reflect on playing for “Coach Zo”

By Jake Williamson, Viking Fusion Contributor

MOUNT BERRY, Ga. — Lorenzo Canalis, the winningest coach in Berry women’s soccer history, announced his plan to retire effective May 31 after 25 years at the helm of the Vikings women’s soccer program. As the nation-wide search for his replacement begins, current players look back on the impact that he has had on and off the field.


“The whole team was saddened by his choice to retire but extremely grateful for the years we’ve gotten to play for him and learn from him,” junior captain Kirbi Matthews said. “He was the best coach I could’ve asked for going into college and I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have received because of him.”

Canalis with Kim Treece on Senior Day Fall 2013
Canalis with Kim Treece on Senior Day in 2013 (Photo courtesy of Cabin Log Yearbook Archives)

Canalis worked hard to create an atmosphere where his players would enjoy their day to day duties.

“He always knew how to make road trips interesting with random trivia, family games, and always welcomed us with a smile and joke when we walked into his office,” said Matthews. “He pushed us to be better and compete every day wanting us to grow in our soccer knowledge as well as skill.”

Ellie Sherrod, a freshman defender, had this to say about her coach:

Lorenzo Canalis Team Photo Fall 2007
Canalis (upper left) with the 2007 Berry Women’s Soccer team (Photo courtesy of Cabin Log Yearbook Archives)

“Choosing where to go to college can be burdensome with all the factors that go into play. Adding a sport to that only makes the process more difficult. You have to decide who you want to be your family for the next four years. Throughout the college search, Berry remained at the bottom of my list for quite some time. However, that quickly changed when I came to campus and had the privilege of spending a day with Coach Lorenzo.”

A coach that brings a healthy balance of hard work, success, and fun to a team and a family is one that most athletes want to play for. Canalis spent years perfecting this balance, which brought him many years of great accomplishments.

Canalis, who took the helm of the program in 1995, was more than just a coach to many of his players–he also helped provide friends, communities, and places where they could be more than teammates.

“I am thankful to Coach Zo for giving me a chance to play college soccer,” said sophomore midfielder Ryley Shapiro. “He has taught me a lot and has made such an impact on Berry soccer and the community as a whole.”

Canalis ends his coaching career with a 322-137- 37 record. In Berry’s NCAA Division III era, Canalis has coached 39 All-SAA selections, 130 SAA Academic Honor Roll honorees, and a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American. He led the Vikings to a 2014 Southern Athletic Association regular season championship and was named the SAA’s Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014.

“I am honored to have enjoyed 25 years at the helm of the women’s soccer program at such an outstanding institution such as Berry College,” Canalis said in the press release. “I want to thank all of those whom I have worked and interacted with, far too many to mention, for having shared their professional talents and friendship over the years.”

Canalis congrats to Vanessa Zimmerman 06 Fall 2007
Canalis high-fives Vanessa Zimmerman in 2007 (Photo courtesy of Cabin Log Yearbook Archives)

“Most importantly, I express my deepest gratitude to my current and past players for their effort, commitment and loyalty to the program. Thank you for allowing me to play a small part in your lives. You have enriched mine in so many wonderful ways.”

“Coach Zo” has been happily married for 45 years to Janda and has two children: Ian and Amy. He is looking forward to fully embracing his role as “Pops” to his five grandchildren.

The press release announcing Canalis’ retirement stated that a national search for his successor is already underway.

Canalis office Fall 2014

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