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A two team battle, in every sense of the word
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A two-team league is obviously not perfect, but if that is the reality, then best that the two sides at very least push each other competitively.

The St Charles College Cardinals and Lo-Ellen Park Knights junior boys soccer team were up to that task at hand and then some, facing each other five times in total and then going one for two in NOSSA playdowns the following week.

The Knights opened the season with a pair of tight victories, trimming the scarlet and grey 2-0 and 2-1 heading into one final match-up prior to the city final.

Moving from the outdoor field to an indoor contest at the Lasalle Bubble, the game bore little resemblance to the first two encounters as the Cards bested Lo-Ellen 5-4 in a wide open affair.

With a key fourth battle looming, both teams were taking something different away from the outing.

"We were winning 2-0 and then everyone wanted to score, everyone was thinking offensively which did not work because they have Adam Urso as a striker and he was just bombing the ball," noted Knights' midfielder Andre Sousa.

"At the end of the game, I was very upset with the players and myself too, because I wasn't defending much and we left the middle open."

Understandably, the Cards looked at this far more as a glass half full.

"We were pretty confident going into the city final," suggested keeper Declan McNamara, starting in that position for the first time ever this spring, hoping to draw on his hockey netminding experience.

"We actually just beat them a week before. The first two games (of the year), we were kind of just figuring things out but then we went to North Bay and won the tournament there and started playing better as a team."

The final was a good one, with Lo-Ellen securing the lead on goals from Max Paquet and Sousa and SCC mounting a charge late, down a man but closing the gap on a strike from Boston Ranger, as the Knights held on for the win.

The city champs would ride the momentum of that victory, blanking the St Joseph Scollard Hall Bears from North Bay (1-0) on a goal from Adam Kulik to lay claim to a NOSSA banner as well. Sousa made note of a handful of areas that he felt his team had developed over the course of the typically short SDSSAA soccer season.

"I think a lot of it was communication," said the 15 year-old grade nine student who is also a key cog with the Impact U15 boys team. "At the start, we didn't talk too much because we didn't know the other players - and some of them were older."

"As we started practicing more, we started to develop more team communication and everyone started passing and talking more to each other, which really helped us out."

"Our coach (Paul Hatzis) and all of the players, we all decided that at practice, we wanted to improve those who have played mostly recreational soccer and try and mix those competitive players in as well," added Sousa.

"We wanted to improve the skills of those who had not played competitive soccer, but also the competitive players. I think that my role, as a player who was helping, was just to pass the ball around and get the ball through to the strikers and help all of our players whenever they needed help, be there to support them."

While in came in a different form entirely, the concept also held true for McNamara and his mates as well. "I think what helped us a lot was keeping them to the outside, not letting them in the box," suggested the teenager who has committed to returning in the same position next year.

"Our defense did a really good job of just kicking it out when it got close."

Thankfully, in just a two team league, it got close more often than not.

Sudbury Wolves