Greater Sudbury Soccer Club
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The goals of mid-season soccer and the chance to do something with the sport
2024-07-06
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Greater Sudbury Soccer Club Impact teams are nearing or have already hit the midway point of their season, with some having already checked off some of the boxes on their list of goals to be achieved, and others looking to do the same over the course of the next three months.

“I feel like we are reaching our home stretch now,” suggested 16 year-old center defensive midfielder (CDM) Mishal Olanrewaju, back again with coach Dino Moretta and the U16 Impact boys.

With a record of 3-0-1, the Sudbury squad sits four points back of Vaughan SC but hold games in hand over both the league leaders and the second place Thornhill entry. “In league play, we are undefeated so I really want to keep that going – but there are some (top end) teams that we haven’t played yet.”

“And we have a couple of tournaments coming up where we would really like to make an impact too.

The Impact U16 boys have returned for a second summer of TOSL (Toronto Soccer League) play, with their sights now set on the jump to I-Model play next year, the ascension that was navigated by a quartet of GSSC teams this summer.

“I really want to help elevate our team and make sure that we can get to a higher level,” said Olanrewaju, a grade 11 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School and younger brother to U21 Impact member and Carleton University freshman Maliq Olanrewaju.

“That’s my focus.”

In order to do so, it goes without saying that every single member of the team must find a way to raise the bar on a personal level, a challenge to which the teenager of Nigerian descent is not the least bit oblivious to.

“I am trying to develop my left foot,” said Olanrewaju. “I feel that it’s a really good skill to have. Instead of having to cut it back to my right, just being able to use my left foot would be great.”

With a core of talent that have been with the team for a handful of years mixing with a very helpful influx of newcomers in the past two years, this well-spoken young man who was born in Canada (Maliq, interesting enough, was born in Saudi Arabia as the family made the move from Nigeria to North America) has already seen some very encouraging growth with the squad.

“We’ve made a great jump in intensity and skill and motivation last year,” noted Olanrewaju.

And where his older sibling is well-known in these parts for his finishing touch on the attack, Mishal takes pride in mastering a completely different post on the pitch. “I used to be a midfielder but they dropped me back a little defensively and I feel that I work better there,” he said.

“I like the more defensive side of soccer. I like having control of the ball, being able to play it, having the ball filtered through me. I feel like I am very calm and relaxed in a lot of situations. I don’t make that many mistakes and I can tackle pretty well.”

Positioned even a little further back on the field, centerback Janelle Richer can relate to that same focus on effective ball movement, one of the areas that she and her U17 Impact teammates have progressed most in getting to the point of earning the right to move to an upper level of I-Model play for the balance of 2024.

“I think we pass a lot better and talk and know where to put the ball,” said the 17 year grade 12 student at E.S.C. l'Horizon, one of the key contributors to an Aigles’ high-school girls team that have now won three straight SDSSAA titles. “Before, we would just kick it up anywhere. Now, we know where to be after we put the ball somewhere.”

In fact, one of the shining moments for this team has come in their ability to grasp in much greater depth the fact that effective ball movement, as a team, is at least as dependent, if not more dependent, on the actions of the players without the ball as it is with the individual who has the sphere at their feet at any particular moment in time.

“Usually I want to make sure I give them the option of making another pass, if they want to play it back to me,” said Richer. “It’s about moving around and making sure that we give them another option to pass, moving into space and getting open.”

Beyond that, on a more personal level, Richer has learned to use what she has at her disposal. Despite topping out somewhere around the 5’5” height or so, she has massaged her game to still find a way to do what is asked of her, despite not enjoying the more towering heights that so many centerbacks enjoy.

“Something that helps me gain an advantage back is using my body, not in an insane way, but pushing a little to pressure, being right there and letting them know that I am there.”

Small wonder, given these comments, that coaches Doug Rosener, Caroline Kovacs and Max Massimiliano have seen this team surge from their starting point some four to five years ago.

“When I first started with the team, we didn’t win a game,” said Richer. “We have evolved a lot. We’re playing well against teams that before, we would have never stood a chance with, so we’ve really come far as a team.”

And their reward, in part, was to witness first-hand just how far a Sudbury-based talent might progress, with just-named Canadian Olympian Cloe Lacasse attending a team workout in northern Ontario last month. “I’ve always had doubts that I would be able to make it out of Sudbury for soccer, but she (Lacasse) inspired me a lot,” said Richer.

“Knowing that she did it makes me think that I can do it too, that I have a chance to do something.”

The balance of the GSSC U17 Impact girls roster includes Kynlee Cresswell, Misaki Diavolitsis, Aiden Panella, Aria Petroski, Kaylee Vaillancourt, Gabrielle Luoma, Bryn Hobson, Leticia Silva, Amy Flores, Grace Kalu, Olivia Ferguson-Soules, Natalia Begic, Alyssa Shallow, Chiana Rocca, Brianna Dignard, Isabelle Roy, Isabelle Gilbert, Isabel Rheault, Bella Pickett, Bella Masimilliano, Mya Massimiliano and Ava Massimiliano.

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