A season of highs and lows for Sudbury Panhellenic United ended on yet another positive swing, perhaps only fitting for the local U-16 boys soccer team that has accomplished so much over the past few years. Bouncing back from a difficult 2-0 loss to the Toronto Eagles just 24 hours earlier, United regrouped to hand the Vaughan Azzuri just their second defeat of the season, guaranteeing the visiting Sudburians fourth place within the eight team CSL group.
This marks the second consecutive season where the local side has not only managed to avoid divisional relegation, seemingly the standard for countless Northern Ontario boys youth soccer teams when travelling south, but also proven to be an extremely competitive opponent for teams with a far greater basis of skilled young soccer players.
Missed opportunities spelled the demise of the Pan United crew Saturday as the Eagles scored a pair of first half goals and survived a player ejection with a red card late in the half to hold on for a 2-0 win. Needing a win against the league-leaders Sunday to secure 4th place, Sudbury receives some early momentum courtesy of Mark Bamberger, who takes a feed from Joey Martellacci in the sixth minute and makes no mistake.
A handful of chances for both teams through the opening 45 minutes would not pay dividends as United defenders Justin Lariviere, Colin Loney and Jordan Sovran manage to keep Vaughan at bay. "We have in the past started the second half slowly so we emphasized to the boys that they had to keep it going", noted United head coach Clive Stephenson of the half-time instructions provided to the local crew.
Message received, it would appear, as Kersey Kalubi, Jordan Sovran and Brian Hennessy work the ball in to Martellacci off the opening second half touch where the league's leading goal scorer nets his 15th goal of the season to give Sudbury a two-goal cushion.
The Azzuri makes things interesting, converting on a penalty kick midway through the second half and continue pressing over the final few minutes of play. But underage Sudbury netminder Thomas Guscott, caps off a brilliant performance with a spectacular save, somehow getting a hand on a blast from 20 yards out that is steered just wide of the post.
In Stephenson's mind, the game is indicative of the past few seasons that he's enjoyed with the United side. "Not a flawless performance, but one that showed incredible heart and numerous periods of skill and competitiveness against the top team", notes the former Laurentian Voyageur.
The well-deserved victory concludes regular season play for Panhellenic United, with the team posting a record of seven wins, six losses and a tie. And while a record of just above the .500 mark might not seem to be cause for celebration, it is absolutely critical to remember that the success that United has achieved is easily leaps and bounds ahead of any local boys team in recent memory as Sudbury competes within the second highest level of youth competitive soccer in the province, behind only the OYSL (Ontario Youth Soccer League).