In the world of sport, there are always people who say records are meant to be broken. But no matter the sport, it can often be a huge challenge.
Just mention that decree to Cape Breton University (CBU)’s Alliyah "Ally" Rowe and wait for her response.
Modest, astute, and intelligent, the 5-foot-10 striker is not one to brag about personal accomplishments.
Still, she has many under her belt, including breaking three Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women’s soccer records in one regular season. As of the end of the 2023 fall semester, Rowe has her name inscribed as all-time goal scorer (56), single-game goal scorer (six on two occasions) and individual season top scorer (25).
She also helped the Capers finish in the top five of 45 teams competing for the 2023 U SPORTS national championship gold medal.
With that, it’s no surprise that Rowe was the 2023 AUS nominee for the women’s soccer Outstanding Player of the Year Award in U SPORTS.
Nonetheless, Rowe’s journey didn’t exactly start off with soccer.
There was a time when, in her hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, Rowe’s mother—thinking it was time to get her daughter enrolled in a physical after-school activity—had initially put her name on a list for ballet lessons.
But Rowe in those dancing shoes would not last. Instead, the art of her performance would be on a different stage.
“It lasted less than a week,” said Rowe. “So we got out of that. And then one day she just came up to me and she's like, ‘Do you want to try soccer?’ Because she had seen an ad in a paper or something.”
At age seven, she signed up in a house league and game after game, year by year, Rowe's skill would be on full display, but on a soccer pitch.
Upon graduating from Père-René-de-Galinée, a French Catholic secondary school in nearby Cambridge, Rowe had a number of offers from different schools. But it was after seeing the atmosphere surrounding Capers athletics during a recruitment trip to CBU that she made up her mind.
“The atmosphere, the connection, support and I saw the way players worked together and coaches handled things,” said Rowe, who had decided her new home would be in Sydney, N.S., some 2,000 kilometres from her home. “Just seeing everybody come out to support, I was like, this is the place for me. This is just awesome.”
Now a dominant, impact player with the Capers, Rowe has had the spotlight on her for four consecutive seasons. Easily identifiable by her talent and not just the jersey No. 12 on the soccer pitch, the realization of Rowe’s efforts can best be described in one word—phenomenal.
Throughout the years, Rowe has been named a two-time AUS MVP award winner, 2019 U SPORTS Rookie of the Year, four-time AUS All-Star, two-time First Team All-Canadian, and was a member of the Capers squad that won two AUS gold medal titles.
And at 22 years old, Rowe is thinking about returning to CBU for a fifth year. This is following a season that didn’t end with a ring.
After a 2-1 win over Acadia University in an AUS soccer semifinal it was on to the league championship. A remarkable 10-1-1 Capers season on the line, Rowe would assist on the first Cape Breton goal, but lose to another provincial school, St. Francis Xavier University from Antigonish, who would rally for a 2-1 win and league bragging rights.
“It was sad, knowing that our season was ending, and we didn't have another two weeks to go, especially with some of our players graduating,” said Rowe. “But you look back and you realize how much fun you've had, the great players and people you've met along the way, and just realize, it wasn't all for nothing.”
To Rowe, there is more to soccer than just winning.
“You create bonds that just can't be broken. And us at this level we're at right now, you become role models. There are so many kids who come out to watch us play.”
Rowe mentions a specific, touching moment that happened after the Capers’ semifinal game against Acadia. Following the win, a couple of young girls came to the team as they were walking back to the change room.
“They had paint all over their face with Rowe, number 12 and stuff and I thought to myself this is amazing. I took pictures with them and told them ‘Why don't you girls come look at our change room? Because you guys are the future Capers. You guys are going to be here one day.’ And one of the girls said this is the greatest day of my life.”
And according to Rowe, all of this would not have happened without the help of the people around her.
“I wouldn’t have achieved all the success without the amazing team behind supporting me, making me better and getting me the ball.”
As for the future, her thoughts right now are working in sports in some way—coaching, physiotherapy are areas that perk her interest.
“I’m not ready to give up soccer,” said Rowe. “Hoping dreams come true and to play professional soccer along with a goal of competing for Canada internationally.”
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 50+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations. In 2021, he was the recipient of the USports Fred Sgambati Media Award in recognition of major contributions to the development and growth of Canadian university sport.