The Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) Impact U14 girls were fully prepared for a challenge.
With numbers a tad on the light side at a couple of adjacent age groupings, the girls born in either 2007 or 2008 were combined together to form a singular squad.
The fact that this merger would occur in the first year the girls would be exposed to 11 vs 11 soccer, losing the natural progression that should have occurred in the summer of 2020, only added to the glut of new information this crew would be asked to absorb.
Topping it all off came the news, just as the youngsters hit the field, that they did not have a league in which to play (in 2021), victims of the move by the HDSL (Huronia District Soccer League) to remain fully regionalized as a pandemic precaution.
Thankfully, a series of friendlies, largely in the north, was arranged – but the results were as expected.
“We took a bit of a beating, early on,” suggested coach Doug Rosener. “I don’t remember our first couple of game scores exactly, but it wasn’t pretty. We quickly saw, early in the season, how much further ahead those teams were to us.”
All of which made a pair of ties last weekend, 2-2 Saturday versus the Nipissing U14 girls and 3-3 the next day against their U13 lineup all the more satisfying. The patience, across the board, of the coaching staff, the players, the parents, all of it had been rewarded.
“I realized that with these girls, we had to break it down to smaller goals, try and create smaller victories within a game,” explained Rosener. “If we can’t hang with them for eighty minutes, then let’s go for twenty and see where we are. We ended up taking our season in smaller pieces and celebrating the smaller victories.”
Most recently, those celebrations included strikes from Maia Hammell (2), Monique Fitzmaurice, Kynlee Cresswell and Gabby Luoma. The evidence was clear – a few months spent on technical skills in lieu of the tactical knowledge that might typically be shared at this age was producing the desired results.
“Because of the lack of experience, I couldn’t expect some of these girls to understand how to attack in the final third before they learned how to make a first touch on the ball,” said Rosener. While some of the young ladies on hand enjoyed an introduction to a level of competitive soccer back in 2019, many had not.
There would be a need to approach coaching on a more player by player format.
“We talked to each girl individually to get a feel for what they expected to get out of the season, what their strengths and weaknesses were, and how we could help,” said Rosener. Thankfully, this particular crew was being guided by a man who was blessed with a great deal of healthy perspective.
“I’m lucky enough to have these girls in the first truly competitive year of their soccer lives,” the coach suggested. “I’m not looking for results for this year, especially since we weren’t in a real league. I want to build this team for two or three years down the road. We tried to focus on each girl individually, give them as much individual feedback as we could.”
And when it all came together collectively, the pride resonated across the lineup.
“It was all around, the way that we played as a team – with a lot more confidence and more as a team, winning the 50/50 balls, defending and not jumping, just jockeying with the player, how we supported each other if we needed an option – we all felt good about that,” said Isabel Rheault, a 14 years old who split her time between midfielder and goaltender.
“In that kind of situation, it’s easy to get discouraged with all of the losses. We tried to make sure to keep smiling.”
All of which is easier when the adults on the sidelines are sharing those smiles.
“It was apparent our success would not be measured on the scoreboard, it would be measured by the progress we made, how we closed the gap,” said Rosener. That was something to smile about.
Rounding out the roster for the U14 Impact Girls are Natalia Begic, Isabelle Chalmers, Izabel Courville, Leticia Silva, Grace Yzerman, Misaki Diavolitsis, Bryn Hobson, Hailey Ayre, Lilah Selby, Gabriella Massimiliano, Aiden Panella, Janelle Richer, Amy Flores, Mya Massimiliano, Aria Petroski and Kaylee Vaillancourt.
Joining Rosener on the sidelines were assistant coaches Carolina Kovacs, Max Massimiliano and Lisa Ayre.
The U14 girls were not alone in walking away pleased from the weekend that was.
The Impact U14 boys moved into fifth place in a league of 18 teams, beating Markham SC 3-1 on goals from Boston Ranger, Ian Burnett and Byron Nelson.
The Impact U16 girls split a pair of 1-0 games, falling to North York FC on Saturday but clipping North Toronto on Sunday. Andrea Begic buried the only goal of the game and keeper Kylee Hitchen made it stand as the team improved to 5-3-0, good for 4th place in a group of twelve.
The Impact U13 boys extended their win streak to three games with a 1-0 win over SC Toronto (goal by Isaac Contois-Ndlovu; shutout Addison Denomme) before the Olympic Flame doused that string of success, downing the northern lads 3-1 (Sudbury goal from Maksim Beljo).
One day after losing a 3-1 affair to Thornhill – Matias Siemen with the GSSC tally – the Impact U15 boys put the brakes on an eight game skid of consecutive setbacks, earning a 0-0 draw with Rexdale as Nikola Tuttle thwarted every offensive foray from the visitors.
Finally, the Impact U16 boys may have earned just a single point on the road, tying Etobicoke 2-2 but falling to Toronto Azzuri (4-2), but Nicholas McGee was back on mark, accounting for three of the four GSSC shots that would find the back of the net, with Malik Olanrewaju netting the other.
Just a couple of local crews are at home this coming weekend, as the Impact U16 girls welcome Markham to the James Jerome Sports Complex on Saturday, with Quinte West there the next day. Both encounters start at 1:00 p.m.
The Impact U16 boys follow both of those outings, with Markham (Saturday) and the Scarborough Rangers providing the opposition.