A CSL (Central Soccer League) Cup finalist one year ago, Panhellenic United U-16 boys soccer team will enjoy no such journey this summer. It was close but no cigar for the United crew as Whitby escaped with a 3-2 overtime win last Saturday at home.
Second half goals from Joey Martellacci and Joey St Germain allowed Panhellenic to pull even over the final twenty minutes after spotting Whitby a 2-0 lead. But a costly defensive letdown victimized the locals once again, the one concern noted by Sudbury head coach Clive Stephenson.
"The boys actually played very well in some aspects of the game", said Stephenson. "We passed/moved the ball as well as we have this season and controlled large parts of the game, but our downfall was some very ordinary finishing and some defensive lapses." Overall, Stephenson believed his team created enough quality chances to pick up the win.
Down a small handful of bodies due to OFSAA track & field as well as sickness, Pan United received a yeoman's effort from both Mark Bamberger and Cory Vial, both of whom played the entire contest, demonstrating some great passing and a tireless effort, according to coach Stephenson.
And with the extra games involved with going deep into the CSL Cup draw, Stephenson is not likely to lose any sleep over time that will be better spent on regular season league play, ensuring that Panhellenic will avoid relegation, and hopefully prosper, for a second straight year.
Speaking of which, the team improved to 2-1-0 Sunday in Barrie, picking up an important 3-1 win over the Spirit. Handling the offense for Sudbury were Martellacci, who netted his 4th league goal in three games, as well as Justin Lariviere and Mark Bamberger.
Overcoming the tough loss just 24 hours earlier, United came through with an effort that left coach Stephenson quite pleased. "Again the boys played well, passing was even better than Saturday and the defense was much tighter", he stated. Panhellenic opened the scoring early as sweeper Jordan Sovran sent a well-played ball into the box where Lariviere didn't panic and back-heeled it into the net, a skillful goal indeed.
With the locals failing to capitalize on numerous chances, the home side made good on theirs, rifling a shot to tie the game at one. Just before half, a Martellacci header restored the one goal advantage for Panhellenic and Bamberger provided some insurance, converting on a penalty kick with 15 minutes remaining after Dorien Manchulenko was taken down in the box.
It seems that Bamberger may want to treat for lunch the next time he's out with Manchulenko as all three penalty kick goals scored this year by Bamberger have been the result of fouls committed against Manchulenko. Bamberger, Lariviere and midfielder Brian Hennessy, who pitched in as a back-end defender, all received words of praise from Stephenson following the win in a very physical matchup.
The win, while early, puts Panhellenic five points up on Barrie with two games in hand and six ahead of Scarborough with one game in hand, critical stats in a league that will see the bottom two teams relegated. Yet another important weekend of league play lay ahead as Pan United will face the Pickering Power '91 Strikers and Oshawa Turul on the road, with both teams providing very competitive but winnable battles for the Sudbury side.**********
The move to Level 3 CGSL (Central Girls Soccer League) play was going to be challenging for league newcomers, Sudbury Panhellenic. That much was a given. But playing with a squad that still includes a number of underage players, many of whom get significant playing time will mean that coach Kevin Roach is going to have his work cut out for him, trying to keep his troops optimistic in the face of mounting losses.
Playing their first two home games of the season, Panhellenic fell to 0-4 after losing 5-0 to the Oshawa Kicks and 7-0 to the Pickering Power Pythons. While the team may be much better suited to facing the CGSL U-13 Level 4 Premiere division, league rules require that the Northern Ontario representative enter at the upper echelon of a tiered pyramid rather than the more traditional bottom up ladder.
Despite the heat and the lopsided losses, the young ladies continued to put forth the effort that should eventually pay off as the team gradually closes the gap with some of the Provincial elite. Further hampering the team's bid for competitiveness is the fact that OYSL (Ontario Youth Soccer League) play, considered the elite level of minor soccer play in Ontario, does not commence until the U-14 age grouping.
This has kept the province's top 1994 girls competing against the Panhellenic crew, a squad with a mix of '94 and '95 players who have seldom before seen this level of play. The team heads off for another road trip this coming weekend, facing the Richmond Hill Raiders and Newmarket United.