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Monday, Dec. 17, 2018
Some new mixed in with the regular fall sports traditions
2018-09-24
by Randy Pascal

Covering the local sports scene for the past 15 years or so does create something of a “seasonal routine”, to be sure. There are traditions that I can count on, a familiarity that is to be expected on many different levels with many different sports.

And while there is the inevitable onslaught of unexpected storylines each and every year, it’s also more than a tad refreshing when the templates for the various athletic endeavours features a shift in the landscape, unveiling a completely new area of interest into which we can sink our collective journalistic teeth.

Such is the case this September, with brand new additions being seen on a couple of fronts.

The bastion of girls’ club volleyball for the past dozen years or so, the Northern Chill Volleyball Club has finally opened the doors to boys’ teams. Perhaps only fittingly, it was a trio of Chill coaches on the girls’ side, who also happen to have sons interested in volleyball, which initially spurred discussion into action on this front.

In Bryan Welsh, James Schweyer and Nathan Squires, the new program benefits from some built-in experience, right out of the gate. And while the group was extremely realistic from the outset, targeting just two teams (U14 and U16) for year one competition, the response has forced the fledgling association to double that total for OVA tournament play early this winter.

“There was a pocket of interest that we just weren’t expecting,” noted Welsh, who went on to explain that open sessions throughout the summer, conducted by Schweyer and Squires, really helped build a foundation of interest. Welsh also took time to reach out to Tom Sutton, the current Cambrian coach who has enjoyed a lengthy association with club volleyball teams in the past, and ensure they were not duplicating efforts prior to submitting a U18 entry.

“I think this is just a function of the popularity of volleyball within the school systems in Sudbury,” said Welsh. From a pure coaching perspective, he suggested there is very little to differentiate between the skill-set from girls to boys, especially in the younger, developmental years.

“The age brackets would really be the difference,” he said. “This is just my opinion, but early on, the focus universally is bumping, volleying and footwork. As you get older, the power of the men’s game leads you to focus more on an offensive attacking game.”

While initial tryouts were held over the weekend, the official registration date is tentatively set for October 14th, with practices and tournaments really ramping up at the conclusion of the boys high school volleyball season in early November.

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The notion of an occasional girl suiting up with the local high school boys’ football team is certainly not a new one. Pretty much every year, at least one or two members of the fairer sex would strap on the helmets and pads and line up opposite their male counterparts at the James Jerome Sports Complex.

What does appear to be different, this time around, is both the amount of female talent opting for the boys’ game, and most assuredly, the primary reason behind the exodus. The move from 12 v 12 girls flag football in Sudbury to the 7 v 7 version was not without controversy, not in the least.

And one of the primary arguments in favour of keeping the model that mirrored the boys’ game more closely lie in the ability to find line positions for young women who might otherwise not be fitted to the wide open option of flag football now being showcased locally.

“After the first day of flag practice, I didn’t really like it, because I didn’t get to tackle anyone,” said 15 year old Zoe Duhaime, one of two girls who are suiting up with the Confederation Chargers junior boys’ team. Throw in OFSAA caliber javelin thrower Adriana Duncan, a member of the senior Chargers’ squad, and it would appear that the Val Caron school would be home to as many female playing with the boys as might be the case for the entire region in most years.

“There was zero contact, none at all,” added Duhaime. “Some of the guys reached out to me and said I should come and try it, and I absolutely love it. You have to learn to be more aggressive, because they will come at you, hard. But I really like running over kids, to be honest. It’s probably my favourite part.”

Though the two girls did not know each other at all prior to the start of the football season – Duhaime transferred over to Confederation from Lo-Ellen after grade nine – the defensive lineman has found a kindred spirit in Ava Lafrance.

“I was trying out for flag and I realized that I wanted something more physical, because I am equipped for that,” said Lafrance. “I was surprised at just how supportive the Confed junior boys are. They are so awesome. It’s hard – you’re a girl playing tackle football with the boys. But our boys are always pumping us up and making sure we feel comfortable.”

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The Finlandia Race Series might not be completely brand new, now in year three of operations. But the four race summer-fall circuit is only just beginning to gain traction within the Sudbury running community and remains largely unknown for the general population.

In fact, one of the best sources of information for this event might just come from the youngsters who comprise the “Trailblazers” group, a collection of pre-teen athletes who partake in running, biking and skiing (nordic) activities among a host of other interest.

Julian Luoma, along with little sister Olivia, were out behind the Laurentian University track last Wednesday, joining about 30-40 other participants who took to the cross-country trails for the final Finlandia race of the season.

“I like this race because you get to see your time after you’re done,” noted the eight year-old grade three student at Algonquin Public School. It’s a little bit of a different course, there’s a lot of rocks. There’s one really rocky place, I don’t know what it’s called, but here, there’s a lot of rocks to help you push off.”

A regular at the races and at fitness hobbies in general, Luoma found himself growing increasingly comfortable out on the course. “All of the other races, I got side stitches, but I didn’t get side stitches this time. Maybe it’s because I didn’t eat a lot before the race.”

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