That opening weekend of Central Soccer League (CSL) action may have been a tad deceiving for the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact U16 girls, but almost two months later, there exists little doubt this is exactly where they belong.
Back on July 24th/25th, the local collection of 2005 & 2006 female soccer talent (along with some nice pick-ups from North Bay) kicked off their entry into the provincial loop with a pair of wins – by a combined score of 10-1, no less.
Little did they know, at the time, that the opposition in the form of East York and Mooredale would tag-team to register just a single victory in the 12-team division. Since that curtain-raiser that undoubtedly caught the attention of the remainder of the loop (Kiara Levac scored nine goals that weekend alone and remains at the top of the scoring parade with 17 strikes, seven better than Aliya Sweeney of the Oshawa Kicks), the Impact have had to fight tooth and nail for every point.
This past weekend, the 4th place Sudbury crew (5-4-1) managed to secure a 1-1 tie with a late goal against 2nd place Markham (5-0-4), but let one slip away Sunday at James Jerome, squandering a 3-1 lead and beaten 4-3 by Quinte West (4-4-3).
The younger sister to a 2021 3rd round pick of the San Jose Sharks (Ben), Paige Gaudreau is encouraged that, by and large, the Impact have looked their best against the most talented teams in the league. “We’ve been really good with beating teams that are harder than us and playing up that extra level that we need to, getting back goals that we need, always pushing harder,” stated the grade 11 student at St Joseph Scollard Hall.
Even the close loss would be utilized as a learning experience, an opportunity to understand how to close out an opponent when a win or a tie are in sight. “I think we started rushing things a lot, thinking that we needed to score a goal right away,” said Gaudreau. “We had to be more patient, just calm down and complete passes, making sure to get up the field neatly.”
That kind of demeanour emanates from head coach and former L.U. goaltending stalwart, Connor Vande Weghe, generally pleased with the weekend effort. “There might have been some fatigue, but the work rate from everybody was really good,” he said. “We had to throw people into different positions, different situations, and everyone left everything they had out on the field.”
“It’s really just a matter of doing the little things a little bit more precisely,” he added. “We had goals (against) that were caused by little mistakes and those things come back to bite you, especially in a game that ends 4-3.”
Making the commute regularly between North Bay and Sudbury, Gaudreau agreed that the CSL is exactly what she and her teammates were looking for, setting the stage nicely for the summer of 2022. “This year is our first time in this league; it’s been really good for us,” stated the taller than average centerback.
“It’s been really special, knowing that we could end up even higher next year. I think we’ll be working really hard in the off-season. We know how much we have to push because we know what we’re up against next year.”
With a coach who attained OUA all-star and team MVP status during his time at Laurentian, the girls have the advantage of tapping in to someone who has walked in their shoes. “From my own experience of growing up in Sudbury and playing at L.U., there comes a time where you have to fall in love with training,” said Vande Weghe.
“The idea of training twice a week with the team and then training twice and week on your own and then playing the weekend games – that’s where the little things improve: a cleaner touch, more recognition on what you have to do when you receive the ball,” he added. “That love for training is going to show with a lot of these girls shortly.”
Kiara Levac netted three of the four Impact goals on the weekend, with Taylor St Onge also celebrating her first marker of the season.
In terms of Sudbury summer soccer success, the Impact U14 boys have gone stride for stride with the older girls. Improving their season record to 7-3-1 with a pair of shutout wins (1-0 vs. SC Toronto and 4-0 vs. North York Cosmos), the GSSC reps are lodged all alone in fifth place in a division that numbers 18 teams.
In and of itself, their performance these past few months has been noteworthy. The fact that they have accomplished this with a young keeper who made the move to competitive soccer this past spring, well, that’s almost unfathomable. Yet here they sit, with newcomer Corey Lacroix bumping his shutout total to five with back to back clean slate efforts.
A product of the Walden Minor Soccer system, Lacroix attended tryouts on the advice of friend and teammate Jonah Gibson. Starting virtually from scratch – he only played goaltender part-time throughout his recreational soccer career – the 14 year old grad nine student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School took a very practical view of his role, at the start.
“Positioning in the net is key, just because it’s so big,” said Lacroix. “I would look at the posts all the time to make sure I was in the middle. I just try and position myself there and react as fast as I can to where the ball is going, just to try and save it.”
More often than not, that’s exactly what he’s done – as was the case on Saturday when he preserved both the win and the shutout with one of his finer efforts of the year. “There was a shot and it tipped off someone,” explained Lacroix. “It wasn’t going super fast, but it was going in, so I did a full extension dive.”
“That was pretty cool.”
If the learning curve has been steep for Lacroix, it has been accelerated thanks to the presence of a good number of talented teammates, lads who can really test him in practice. That said, he will play his hunches with leading scorer Paolo Grossi, who tends to favour one side (we want share which side with opponents) – but finds it a little trickier solving either Cole Rosener or Jonah Gibson.
“Cole always seem to get it right off the post or right in the corners – and on penalty kicks, it’s Jonah, because I never know which way he’s going.” Thankfully, the boys are a big part of his development.
“I just kind of figured it out in practices and games,” noted Lacroix of his near immediate success at this higher level of soccer. “If I got scored on, then I learned to just kind of do the opposite.”
The Impact U16 boys survived the weekend with a win and a loss, as Nathan Cranston scored the game-winning goal, late in the contest to push Sudbury past Markham 2-1.
The goal was Cranston's second of the game, with Nick McGee finding the back of the net the next day in a 3-1 Impact loss to the Scarborough Rangers.
The upcoming weekend sees both the GSSC U13 and U14 boys at home, playing back to back games (1:00 & 3:00 p.m.) on both Saturday and Sunday.