Just two games into the 2021 Ontario Women’s Soccer League (OWSL) season, the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact U21 ladies were sitting with a record of 0-2-0, outscored 7-1 by the Barrie Spirit.
Five weeks later, the Sudbury record of 4-2-2 would slide the team into second place, taking the tie-breaker (goals against – 12 for Sudbury; 16 for Richmond Hill) against the latter after playing to a 2-2 draw Saturday on the road. Allie Weiler would score both goals for the locals.
Taking the core of the U18 team and mixing in some talent that are already at university and college, the locals were not completely surprised with the missteps out of the gate.
“We had some knowledge that Barrie was going to be good; we had played most of those girls before in the CSL,” suggested keeper Mia Binks, who along with Lauren Fearn stepped up to handle the goaltending duties in the absence of anyone else who was already trained at the position.
“We were kind of preparing ourselves. In games like that, we just try and come together as a team.”
That was exactly what happened in games three through eight, as the newly-formed mix began to develop a sense of unity. “We’re quite a versatile group of girls, so we blend pretty well with any changes that come into the group,” said Binks. “And a lot of the other teams that we played against seemed to be in the same boat in the fact that they were merging a lot of younger players.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the existing core could see the silver lining in some early season workouts that were perhaps a tad mundane, or at the very least quite familiar. “At a lot of our practices, we will go over a lot of the same stuff, a lot of repetition,” said Binks. “That helps to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”
“Even though we have done some drills every year before, we will repeat it, doing some of the same practices for defending, some of the same practices for midfield, some of the same practices for striking. It’s good for the new people to the U21 team and it helps solidify the skills for players who were already there.”
In terms of new skills, few faced a steeper learning curve than the Binks-Fearn tandem in net, with club coach Evan Phillips providing hours of valuable assistance.
Given the sheer size of the goal alone, one can understand the anxiety that accompanied the first few contests. “Coming off my line was tough. I was quite nervous at the beginning with people coming in on breakaways. I found that in later games, I was a lot more willing to come out and stop balls off my line.”
The Impact U14 boys may have also been a bit anxious heading into play on Sunday and coming off a 7-0 thumping at the hands of East York on Saturday. For a team sitting at 3-1-1 entering that match-up and more than competitive in every single game prior to the lopsided affair, they definitely showed no signs of nerve in the back end of their two game weekend homestand, blanking Kleinburg Nobleton 1-0.
Paolo Grossi snapped a scoreless tie early in the second half, pouncing on his own rebound and Cory Lacroix helped make it stand, coming up with a handful of key saves in keeping his slate clean. Though Braxton Ragogna currently leads the team in scoring with five goals, he was manning the centerback spot for this all important affair.
“I’ve adapted to many positions; it’s just a normal thing for me,” said the 14 year-old soon-to-be St Charles College freshman. “I really like being able to do one on one challenges.” Blessed with exceptional quickness, Ragogna foiled several of the KNSC offensive thrusts, even those moving tantalizingly close to the 18 yard box.
“You have to have good bodywork and be sure to maintain a yard from him,” said the Sudbury captain. “If he makes a mistake, hit it away.”
One of several noticeably talented young teens on the team, Ragogna knows that for the Impact to maintain their top half of the standings placement – they currently sit 6th in a grouping of 18 teams – part of the key is ensuring that every single player on the pitch can contribute.
“The number one thing is confidence,” he said. “Without confidence, you can’t be good – so I try and help make them as confident as possible in their abilities.” One lad not lacking in confidence is fellow centreback Carter Drigo, in whom Ragogna has all the faith in the world.
“He’s tall, he listens really well, he knows when to hold the line and he’s physical,” said Ragogna. The GSSC squad will enjoy the long weekend off before facing winless Markham (0-6-0) on the road on September 11th.
The U13 Impact boys dusted themselves off after a pair of losses at home, beating Pickering 4-1 (Dylan Nelson-2, Lukas Morin, Masimo Toffoli) and edging Markham 2-1 (Toffoli and Nelson).