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A good start for the Panhellenic crew

In an effort to provide a more consistent approach to offering coverage for the wide variety of sports that are highlighted on, we've decided to include a new feature. Weekly and bi-weekly divisional or league updates will offer a wide array of statistical tidbits, roster updates, tournament results for participating teams. The Panhellenic Soccer Club will be featured every Sunday - next update is June 1st

Panhellenic U-15 Lightning (Girls)

The perfect start to the 2008 tournament season for the Panhellenic U-15 Lightning ladies who travel to Woodbridge and return home with Gold, reeling off five straight wins to earn the Woodbridge Showcase title. And they did so by displaying an absolutely stifling defense, holding opponents to just a single penalty kick goal over the entire weekend.

The Sudbury crew got off to a quick start, receiving a two goal effort from Karen Dubreuil and a solo marker from Michelle Jacques in blanking Woodbridge East 3-0. Pickering was up next for the locals who controlled much of the play but could only find the back of the net on a single occasion. Thankfully, the goal courtesy of Gennie Eaton was enough as Panhellenic improved to 2-0 with a 1-0 win.

A very busy Sunday starts early for coach Joe Persi and the girls as Natalie St Laurent scores twice in leading the Lightning to a 2-0 win over Woodbridge West. The return semi-final matchup against Woodbridge East awaits the Sudbury side and they waste little time grabbing the momentum, scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes and registering a 3-1 win to advance to the finals.

The balanced Panhellenic attack continues as Rebecca Laurenti drills a pair of goals and St Laurent adds another in the semi-final encounter. A second battle with Pickering provided the championship drama, with the game equally as close as the preliminary round affair.

Emma Persi breaks through with a pretty goal for the quick strike Lightning offense and keeper Kaitlin Matson makes it stand with a game-saving stop in the final few minutes as Sudbury downs Pickering 1-0 for a second time. In addition to coaches Joe and Carol Persi, the Panhellenic Lightning U-15 roster for 2008 includes: Alex Eaton, Alisha Young, Brittany Byers, Dominique David, Eilie Kleppe, Emma Persi, Gennie Eaton, Hayley Chisholm, Michelle Jacques, Kaitlyn Matson, Karen Dubreuil, Kasandra Jobin, Katie Wismer, Kea Koutsoukis, Nathalie St Laurent, Rebecca Laurenti, Teghan Persi and Tessa McDougall.

Panhellenic U-21 Ladies

After a one year absence, Giuseppe Politi is back in the Panhellenic coaching fold, tackling the Under 21 ladies with a core of players who formed part of the '91 girls team that Politi guided for three years of OYSL (Ontario Youth Soccer League) action.

Mind you, the collection of talent he has assembled for this summer really brings together a wide diversity of athletes. Renee Jacques (Univ of Ottawa) and teammates Anjelica Mazzella and Danielle King (both at Laurentian) return after a fall season within the Canadian University ranks.

Similar story, different country for defender Natasia San Cartier who will put into practice what she learned in her freshman season with the Indiana State Sycamores. Stacey Watson, Carli Derochie, Jessica O'Bumsawin, Romina Cimino and Taylar Dawe were all part of the team that played one year ago with coach Jeff Falcioni and most of whom have suited up, at some time, for Politi as well.

Inside midfielder Dayna Corelli returns home after playing in Southern Ontario last summer. Likewise for Emily Rogers, who prepares to leave in September for the University of Kentucky. With Dawe still in rehab after a nasty broken leg suffered in the final regular season game last year, Politi has secured the services of Lasalle netminder Stacey Carter to provide some much needed depth betweeen the posts.

Ellen House and Morgan McCrory, both of whom have played for Politi previously, return to the fold while talented 14 year-old midfielder Veronica Mazzella will get the chance to test her wares against much older opponents. So with this much change in the roster, should fans expect a change from Politi as well?

"I wouldn't say that I will be too much different", he laughed during a recent interview. "It's just the type of person I am - I will continue to set the standard high for these players. But I am probably a little more flexible now than a few years back."

The Panhellenic group that Politi coached for three reasonably successful years of OYSL action was the last local team to attain that level, although in fairness to the newcomers, the standards have changed whereby Northern teams now must work their way through the CSL (Central Soccer League) and CGSL (Central Girls Soccer League) routes before qualifying for OYSL play. That wasn't the case when the Pan '91 girls advanced, all of which provided a valuable learning experience for the former Voyageur and St Charles College graduate.

"I think I have learned to deal better with the reality of where Sudbury soccer is relative to the rest of the Province." While some might see that statement as a condemnation of soccer locally, most in the know would have to concur that is merely an accurate reflection of the very real challenges facing competitive soccer in the North.

The move to OWSL play from his more familiar OYSL background also provides a curve ball for Politi. "This is the first time where the level of opposition is pretty much unknown - I don't know what to expect", he said. In fact, based on the caliber of opponents the Panhellenic ladies faced one year ago, the variance between the top teams and the bottom teams might still be quite notable.

Of course, Politi expects to fully know what his team is capable of as the ten game schedule commences in late May. "The implicit goal is to have this team as fully prepared as possible. And moreso than any other year, I'll have to be conscious of trying to keep them healthy" notes Politi, a sincere recognition of a shortened bench as young athletes fall by the wayside nearing the conclusion of their high-school athletic careers.

It might not be OYSL opposition but that hasn't detracted one iota from the enthiusiasm with which the intensely-driven coach approaches this next chapter in his coaching resume. "I still have a positive outlook on playing down South against a higher level of opponent." And he's also noticed a change in some players, many of whom he knew extremely well during their early teenage years.

"Many of the players have matured, both as players and as people." With a roster that currently sits at just 15 young ladies, which includes the current walking wounded, Politi is quite open to adding another body or two. The limited numbers will also affect the style of play that he coaches, he suggests. "We're going to have to base what we do on who we have. We'll base our formation in large part on the personnel at hand."

"And we'll need some flexibility - people who might play in different positions." A definate challenge for any aspiring young coach. And like all the others, Politi is sure to tackle this one head on.

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