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Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
Steady as she goes for the SWSC
2017-06-11
by Randy Pascal

Many are the adult sports leagues on a local level that would love to enjoy the kind of stability that has been seen within the Sudbury Women’s Soccer Club (SWSC). Under the watchful eye of long-time league organizer Nicole Gravelle, the SWSC has sailed a very steady course.

Every May, like clockwork, play within the 12-team loop would begin, almost always on Tuesday and Thursday nights, almost always split between the Delki Dozzi Sports Complex and the Cambrian College soccer field.

Even team names remain intact, with the likes of Sudbury Credit Union, New York Fries – S.C. Italia, Integrated Benefit Services (IBS) and the Sudbury Kicks finding themselves slotted in the schedule, each and every summer, right through to the final playoff games, typically at the very end of August, or perhaps a day or two into September.

And while the SWSC welcomes an annual influx of newcomers, often nineteen or twenty, having reached the age of entry into the loop, they are blended with the familiar faces who have become fixtures, to varying degrees, in the quasi-recreational quasi-competitive league.

“When we started, we were nineteen, so we were the youngest team in the league, and there were a lot of older ladies,” acknowledged IBS veteran Stefanie Scarfone, now 28 years young. “Now, we’re all kind of the same age, so I guess that means we’re the old ladies – but we’re really young at heart.”

Like most of the other teams in the league, IBS has enjoyed the benefit of rolling along with a steady core, a few of whom graduated at Lasalle Secondary, alongside Scarfone and high school scoring threat Gillian Scott, and others who moved on to the post-secondary ranks, around the same time, from other local institutions.

League champions in both 2011 and 2013, IBS is expected to rank among the contenders again this year, though Scarfone and her mates continue to seek an appropriate balance on the pitch. “Yes, winning is fun, but it’s not fun to win all the time,” she said. “You need that challenge. As long as everybody is playing the game right, good sportsmanship, it’s a lot of fun, a social thing, and you get your exercise.”

That is music to the ear of Raeannen (McAdam) Thibert, now in her fifth or sixth summer of play with the New York Fries – SC Italia entry. “I started playing when I was fourteen at Chapleau High School, because that was the first year that we actually had a field,” she recalled. “Before that, we practiced on asphalt.”

Small surprise that this background would give way to a very strong commitment to the sport, one which would see Thibert compete at Canadore College in North Bay, before moving on to coach the varsity Panthers prior to her move to Sudbury in 2011. Despite a clear-cut comfort level with the makings of competitive soccer, she would find the line being blurred in recent years, searching for the middle ground that acknowledged that the SWSC is not the equivalent of OCAA soccer.

“I find this team, in previous years, it was extremely competitive, to the point where several of us almost quit,” Thibert stated. “We still want to win, we still love the soccer, but we don’t want it to be that we have to win so much that some people have to sit on the bench. We all pay the same amount of money, and that’s where we have been struggling the past couple of years.”

“This year, we’re here because we love it, and the past three games have been the most fun I’ve had in recent years, and most of the girls agree.” Sudbury Credit Union team organizer Anna Frattini can tell the tales of someone who has stuck it out through the years, providing that stabilizing presence as her team morphs, from time to time, around her.

“We’ve had segments,” said Frattini. “The core of the team now has been together for about five years. We keep losing some of that core, and then we fill it in. We’re blending well. We play indoors together, so that’s usually our core team. In the summer, we have to grab a few more players.”

Over time, that roster will be altered, and not always due to one’s own choice. “I find that I am losing players due to injuries, and that’s heartbreaking,” explained Frattini. “You play with these girls for several years and then you come to the reality that you’re getting older.” Still, she focuses on the positive, that glimmer of light at the end of the line.

“I should say that there are a few players out here who still play in their fifties or their sixties, and I love to see that. That’s my goal. I hope that when I’m 50 or 60, that I am still playing. I think there will definitely be a different level of competition, but at least I will be out there.”

As for the current competitiveness of both her team and the SWSC in general, Frattini sees a healthy mix. “I definitely see that our team has become more competitive, I don’t know if the league has,” she said. “It seems to be the same, that the league will have six teams in the bottom and about six teams in the top.”

“But we are seeing more people that are actually experienced, they’ve played high school, or they’ve played in competitive leagues, or university or college.” And eventually, they will come to play in the league that is likely still to be there, providing that “sure thing” in an era where few sure things exist.

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