It's onward and upward for the Lasalle Lancers (girls) and Bishop Carter Gators (boys).
Moments after capturing their respective Second Division soccer titles on Tuesday, both teams were talking about the possibility of making the jump to Premier Division status in 2023.
Given that the Lancers reeled off nine straight wins without surrendering a goal, capped off with a 2-0 whitewashing of the Lively Hawks in the final, that's probably not all that surprising.
"Coming into this division, we thought that we may have a tough time or we may have an easier time," acknowledged 16 year old grade 11 scorer Theresa Gauthier, who followed up a first half tally from Peyton Brear, giving keeper Charlotte Eberlein a little extra breathing room in registering her ninth clean sheet of the season.
"As we went on, we realized that it was a little easier than we wanted."
In complete fairness to the Lancers, the two year pandemic induced break skewed the outlook for several teams, making it difficult to judge their relative competitiveness based solely on historical norms.
That won't be the case going into 2023.
"Even though we are graduating four players, I think we're going into Division I," said Gauthier. "We'll bring some new people in, keep trying hard and playing as a team."
In fact, the product of the Sudburnia Soccer Club already has some thoughts on areas on which she and her teammates can turn their attention to ensure a playoff appearance is a realistic target.
"We have to work the ball more out to the wings, out to the sides, making our passing a bit better - and taking shots when we are open," said Gauthier. "You don't get many chances when you are open so don't be scared, take the shot."
"And pressuring will be a big thing with Division 1," she added. "We just have to step it up a bit."
Like the Lancers, the Bishop Carter lads walked off with the SDSSAA banner thanks to a 2-0 win, with their triumph coming over a gritty Macdonald-Cartier Pantheres team following strikes from Cameron Vehkala and Anthony Bertrand.
And like the Lancers, the Gators should be able to hit the ground running next April. "I'm very excited because the majority of these guys will be out here together for the next few years," said head coach Isaac Oliveira.
A graduate of the BAC program himself and veteran of the GSSC competitive ranks as well, Oliveira was intent on having his players maintain their sights on the process and not the results, knowing the former would naturally take care of the latter.
"I think it was a matter of not looking directly for the win but focus on moving the ball around and play as a cohesive group," said Oliveira. "That's what I wanted, that's what we are out here for."
Picking up the shutout in net was grade nine multi-sport athlete Isaac Jeanveau, a somewhat unlikely candidate given his apprehension for the position, prior to the season.
"This was my first year ever playing keeper," said the 15 year old who can really boom his kicks. "I played keeper once, three years ago in Valley East soccer and said never again."
"But our goalie (Brody McCue) got injured in the first game, broken collarbone, and I forgot my jersey so they put me in net. That was the only reason."
Things turned out OK, it would seem. While there are aspects of his game where his instincts serve him very well, the assistance of former keeper turned coach Kat Shank helped to fill in the voids.
"She taught me a lot, like how to dive," said Jeanveau. "And the shots close to the posts are really hard, you really have to reach. My coach told me to stay a bit off the line so you don't run your head into the post."
"She taught me pretty good," he added with a laugh.
Against ESMC, Jeanveau handled all of the shots he was expected to, catching a bit of a break when he deflected a direct kick from Josh Huot off the crossbar and out.
"I saw that ball flying and at first, I thought it was going over - but then it was dropping fast," recalled Jeanveau. "I jumped, put my hand up and didn't even look at it. It was a mystery save; it could have easily gone in."
But it didn't, and with a really solid core of grade nine and ten talent returning, it will be interesting to see if Jeanveau and Oliveira and the rest of the Gators opt to make the move to Premier Soccer next spring.
They certainly appear ready for the challenge.