Women’s soccer finds homegrown talent in Lauren Varey

New recruit talks her Kingston soccer roots and journey towards becoming a Gael

Lauren Varey starts her career as a Gael this fall.
Dharmayu Desai

The Women’s Soccer Team has recruited a player from its own backyard.

Hailing from the Junior Gaels Soccer Club, Kingston native Lauren Varey, Kin ’25, was recruited to the women’s soccer team this year as a defender. 

This week, The Journal sat down with her to discuss the value of playing with the Junior Gaels, and how it feels to play for her hometown team.

After quitting dance at the age of nine, Varey was urged by a friend to give soccer a try. Shortly after, she discovered that her passion for the game wasn’t very strong.

“At first, I found that I wasn’t very good, so it was definitely a little hard mentally coming into practice and stuff where you’re like, man, I’m the worst player on this team,” Varey said in an interview.

While her success wasn’t immediate, Varey’s work ethic slowly began to develop throughout her first year. She credits one of her youth coaches in particular—Tammy Scott-Zelt—for helping her improve drastically.

“[Scott-Zelt] kept pushing me, and by the end of the season, I’d improved enough that I saw the change, and I started to enjoy the sport,” she said. “I loved the feeling of being on the field and finding my place in the back end.”

Varey’s soccer career began nine years ago with the Cataraqui Clippers—the club that would eventually rename itself the Junior Gaels when it became affiliated with Queen’s in 2018. Her development was facilitated by the top-tier environment fostered by her coaches, who are familiar faces in the Queen’s community.

Mallory McQueen, an assistant coach for the Queen’s women’s soccer team, was one of Varey’s coaches during her final years with the Junior Gaels. Christian Hoefler, head coach of the Queen’s men’s soccer team, would also coach some of her practices from time to time.

“[McQueen] was amazing to have. As someone so experienced as a coach, she really brought that to our practice and really helped develop us in the last few years,” Varey said. “She really prepared us for what was to come, the physicality and being technical, that’s really important in the game.”

“I loved my time as a Junior Gael […] [McQueen and Hoefler] both know what to expect and what we need to do to reach the next level.”

Varey gained valuable experience when she was called up to the Junior Gaels Women’s Premiere Team in the Ottawa Carleton Soccer League. As a ninth grader playing on a team composed mainly of university alums, she caught glimpses into the intensity and aggression that came with high-level soccer.

“It really helped [me] develop, getting used to the feeling of playing at high-pressure games where you have only one pass or two, or you have two seconds to really get the ball out of your feet,” she said. “Some of the girls are really aggressive and they use their body very well, so getting used to that was really good, especially at a young age.”

The experience also helped Varey adjust to the expectations of varsity-level soccer as she graduated from Junior Gael to Queen’s Gael this past summer.

“The speed of play and the aggression that you see on the field is much higher. Especially in the air, everything’s cleaner. So, getting used to that precision on the field, and looking for it […] is really important,” she said.

Evidently, becoming a Gael has been a surreal experience for Varey. She vividly recalls being a ball girl for the Queen’s Women’s Team during her early years with the Clippers.

“Seeing them play on the field and seeing the high level right there in front of your eyes […] that was really amazing to watch. I definitely looked up to them so much,” she said.

Now that Varey is on the other side of the field, wearing the jersey, she finds it hard to put her emotions into words.

“Getting to put on the jersey for the first time, you can’t describe the feeling. It was so amazing,” she said.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time, so it’s kind of surreal that it’s happening now.”

As a Gael, Varey hopes to take it game by game, and to develop, improve, and give back to the team that has already given her so much.

“These girls have been incredible people to play with. They are pushing you to become the best and do the best you can every second of every practice and game,” she said.

With the season opener against Carleton later this week looming large, Varey couldn’t be more eager to get out on the pitch and begin her career as a Gael.

“I started this because I love soccer. I just hope to continue to develop over the next couple of years, and I want to better myself.”

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