Sometimes it’s nice to just wipe the slate clean and start over.
>While that was certainly not an option for every single on the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact competitive teams this summer, there were certainly some squads that benefitted from the chance to recharge the batteries at a point in time.
In the case of the Impact U15 girls, that opportunity would come courtesy of the new I-Model structure of play introduced by Soccer Ontario, a format that would see teams contest a quasi play-in early season round of soccer before being re-tiered in early July.
The end result for coach Doug Rosener and company was that a team that was winless before the start of the second half is now rolling along with a five game winning streak, despite the fact that a handful of those victories have come against the very same teams that they lost to in the first month or two of the summer.
“I think a big part of our success is our new formation, the 4-2-3-1 formation,” suggested midfielder Gab Luoma. “I had to learn from it - but I really like it. I think once you learn it, your soccer game just grows that much higher. In the past few weeks, our team really figured itself out.”
The timing is nice for the 15 year-old grade 10 student at Collège Notre-Dame who has seen her role on the pitch altered as her soccer evolution continued in recent years. “I wanted to be that person who scores, especially when I was younger,” said Luoma. “I really liked taking the ball up, I really liked facing off against the defensive opponents, so I kind of gravitated to center mid and forward.”
“As I matured, I wanted to stay back a little more; I’ve been playing more defensive mid recently.”
The simple truth is that Luoma and her teammates have come a long way, most following a similar path towards an increasingly demanding style of play. “In Sudburnia, they put you on the field and you do what you do,” she said. “With the Impact, it’s more technical. You have to learn where to be at certain times; you have to learn to support your teammates.”
It is something of a never-ending learning curve, an environment in which Luoma and so many others can thrive. “A big part of our success is that we are identifying the mistakes that are being made in the games and applying that knowledge in practice,” she said. “I really like the fact that our practice to game ratio is back and forth.”
“The things that maybe you don’t do as well in a game, you improve on in practice.”
The girls bumped to 5-0-0 thanks to a 3-2 win earlier this week over the NDSC (Nipissing District Soccer Club), with Aidan Panella and Maia Hammell joining Luoma on the scoresheet for the locals.
As for the Impact U17 boys, the turning point to the season may not have been quite so dramatic.
Dealing with some very real concerns regarding the viability of the squad this summer, the team opened the 2022 summer schedule slowly, though in hindsight, a stretch of games against the divisional elite truly did them no favours.
What did help was a three week gap in their calendar, a period where they could collectively put their heads down during team workouts, striving for a better end product. The end result keeps bearing fruit.
Following an impressive sequence of games within the CSL (Central Soccer League), the team took things up a notch over the long weekend, capturing the Ottawa Showcase Tournament in the nation’s capital.
After kicking things off with a 1-1 draw with OSU Force White, the U17 Impact lads triumphed over the Nepean Hotspurs (3-1), International Soccer Club from Mississauga (4-0) and Hamilton Croatia (2-0), walking away with the banner in the Nike Vapor Division.
On their biggest stage of the season, the northern boys came through in a really big way.
“We knew that there would be college scouts there and we wanted to impress, but I think the biggest thing was still that we wanted to play well as a team and win the tournament,” noted Sudbury leading scorer Maliq Olanrewaju, who paced the attack with five goals in four games.
“By doing that, it would show all the scouts individually what we are made of, what we can do.”
While numbers presented a challenge as this team assembled in April, the core that were there remained fully committed to giving the season a shot. “Coming out of the pandemic, our coach (Nick Walker) let us know that we were a little short on guys and that if we wanted to go on, it would be tough,” said Olanrewaju.
“He told us we could do it, but it would be tough - and we all wanted to go ahead with it.”
Given that buy-in, it was time to focus on player development. For the 16 year-old striker from Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, there was a need to expand the options, understanding exactly how to breakdown the opposition.
“As you get older, your pace (speed) is not everything any more,” stated Olanrewaju. “There will be defenders that you come up against that are faster and stronger than you. When I notice that one of the centerbacks might be a little weaker, that might be the one I try and target.”
“Or sometimes if I notice that balls over the top or balls in behind are just not working, I might go short and pick up the ball, play it wide and try and adjust the best that I can.”
The Impact U15 boys could not have spread the scoring around much better as eight different players jumped aboard in an 8-2 win last week of NDSC U16 Lakers. Al-Ameen Salami, Ibrahim Najem, Jacob Hulisz, London Croome, Byron Nelson, Braxton Ragogna, Max Paquet and Mohammad Alramadan all managed to strike paydirt in the high scoring affair.