Coaching Cambrian College soccer can be challenging at the best of times.
Recruiting athletes north from the hotbeds of provincial soccer is always interesting. Additionally, many athletes enter programs that are two years or less in length, making it tough to build a program. Throw in a decision not to play in the OCAA this fall and clearly it’s time to send some props in the direction of both Evan Phillips and Jason Garforth.
Both gentlemen have managed to not only keep their teams together through a year of exhibition games only, but have actually laid the foundation for some very good squads, based on results to date that have been more than a little encouraging.
“The difficulty was trying to get everyone to still commit and be interested and see what the long-term plan was,” said Phillips, the man at the helm of a women’s team that earned a split with Laurentian before dismantling the George Brown Huskies 7-0 a couple of weekends ago.
“The fact is that we do have a ton of first years this year who should be with the program for three to four years is great. We’ve been able to get some games and use those as motivating factors to try and keep things interesting – and then get some action in the winter.”
As for coach Garforth and the Golden Shield lads, a 3-2 triumph over Laurentian and 5-0 whitewashing of the Algoma Thunderbirds provided the first year sideline manager with Cambrian some ammunition in convincing players that he had lured north that the end result would all be worth the effort.
“It was toughest with the recruiting class that I brought in, explaining to them that unfortunately, we’re not going to be playing in the OCAA, but we are going to be playing friendlies throughout,” said Garforth. Thankfully, some degree of success came early, facilitating a buy-in across a roster that offers a nice blend of local and out-of-town talent.
“At this point right now, we would be competitive in the OCAA,” he stated. “We had some players come in that did not fit our mold and so we kind of told them we are going in a different direction. Now we have a bunch of players who are committed to the system – and the system has worked so far.”
Much like Giuseppe Politi before him, Garforth maintains a steadfast belief in a methodology that can offer results against opponents that Cambrian might not have fared quite as well against traditionally. “We play with a high line and complete pressure on the ball,” explained Garforth.
“We know where our weaknesses are so we counteract that. When the ball is moving, we have to take quick touches and keep it moving fast. We’re massively aggressive and we rely on our wing backs immensely.”
Phillips, by contrast, is taking a slightly more long-term approach, at least in the sense of viewing long-term as the fall of 2022.
“We have a really decent team this year, but there’s a lot of growth to be had,” said the former Cambrian keeper turned coach. “It’s probably the deepest team that we’ve had in a number of years. I’ve done some things a lot differently now that we’ve done in the past with regards to how we play.”
“We have some new concepts that we’re introducing, partly because I believe that the talent level that we have is pretty strong, and at the same time, I’m trying to get everyone minutes here because it is about development.”
“They all should be coming back – maybe one girl graduating – so it’s about getting the program to the level that it needs to be at: making playoffs, hosting playoff games, getting to the final four,” Phillips added. “We’re a long way away from next year, but those are some of the goals I have for the program.”
Having been around the Cambrian soccer scene to the days where the Shield women’s team could contend for provincial medals – the team captured bronze in both 2014-2015 and 2016-2017 – Phillips is blessed with more perspective than most on how his team compares.
“I wouldn’t say that we are as top-end talented as we have been, at times,” he suggested. “But from goalkeepers to defenders, midfielders, strikers and wingers, we have depth at every position. People can come in and out and make a difference, whether they are starting or not.”
“This should translate well when we get back into the OCAA next year.”
In the meantime, Phillips will continue to build and develop.
“We played Laurentian again this week (4-0 loss),” he said. “We made three mistakes and they scored on all three. I think it’s a big adjustment for the girls to realize how much they get punished for mistakes at the higher levels.”
“Because we’re not in the results business this year, we’ve been able to introduce other topics that we wouldn’t normally be able to do,” Phillips added. “That will increase the diversity of what we can do when we do get back to playing OCAA soccer.”
The 2021 Cambrian College women’s soccer roster includes Reanna Beaudoin, Emily Binks, Kasia Brufatto, Cassidy Burton, Grace Cranston, McKenna Cresswell, Nora Dzuirban, Quinn Eggleton, Emma Faulkner, Laura Hill, Zenna Hilliard, Prezzley Hutchison, Haylee Lavigne, Kaitlyn MacGirr, Kyra Mallory, Lauren McTiernan, Kaitlyn Pressley, Julia Roy, Kate Schoenrock, Aisha Warren, Mackenzie Watkins and Allie Weiler.
As for coach Garforth and the men, the newcomer to Sudbury is not lacking in the least in confidence that his team can match up with the OCAA elite. Furthermore, he believes this is exactly the place to make that kind of a statement.
“The position here intrigues me way more because the college is small and there is more gratification that comes with doing something at a college that is small instead of a larger university,” said Garforth.
The 2021 Cambrian men’s roster is as follows: Omer Duri, Ugatua (Samson) Ebikeme, Luca Geada, Nathaniel Hartley, Nick Iannazzo, Skylar Larocque, Harrison Machan, Aidan Martel, Jack Mercier, Brandon Moxam, James Pinheiro, Andrew Prince, Quinton Thompson and Anderson Wolfe.