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Two very different routes to the same destination. And, it appears, two distinctively contrasting set of goals and expectations. In the end, it all adds up to one step forward for youth soccer in Greater Sudbury.
Both the Sudbury Canadians U-12 girls and the Panhellenic Storm U-15 ladies have qualified to play in the Central Girls Soccer League (CGSL) Level 3 in the summer of 2010. By comparison, this past season would see no local representation in either the CGSL or the CSL (Central Soccer League – Boys) – although, in fairness, both the Sudbury U-17 Canadians and the Panhellenic U-21 crew competed in the Ontario Women’s Soccer League.
For coaches Ted Leck (Canadians) and Kevin Roach (Panhellenic), the graduation to a higher level of play marks the culmination of hours of dedication and effort, most notably on the part of their young athletes, but certainly by the respective team staffs as well.
Yet their paths to the CGSL differed substantially. For coach Roach (you have to love the ring of that little snippet!) and company, the move to the provincial loop constitutes a return trip as the bulk of his lineup first saw action in this league in the summer of 2007.
The CGSL Level 3 league represents the second highest division of youth soccer in the province, behind only the Ontario Youth Soccer League (OYSL). But the latter does not kick in until the U-14 age grouping, meaning Roach, with a handful of key underage players on his roster, was forced to play against the very best in Ontario two years ago.
The end result was relegation back to the local leagues, a situation that created plenty of motivation for the youngsters to fight their way back to the promised land. “Everything we did this year was built around the Challenge game”, noted Roach.
Ah yes – the Challenge Game. And what a game it was. First, the background – by virtue of being the top U-15 girls team in Northern Ontario, the Storm earned the right to face the sixth place finisher in CGSL U-15 play this year in a single game, winner take all match last month. The victor would slide into the sixth slot in the CGSL U-16 division in 2010.
The contest would pit Sudbury Panhellenic opposite Wexford, a team which featured some players against whom the locals battled back in 2007. “I knew going in that it was going to be a tough game”, acknowledged Roach. “And I knew that we were well matched against them.”
In fact, the schedule of tournaments that Panhellenic entered throughout the summer of 2009 was predicated on testing themselves against CGSL Level 3 teams, providing an excellent gauge of their competitiveness months ahead of the big game.
It’s probably fitting then that a scoreless tie through regulation would be followed by a pair of fifteen minute overtime sessions in which neither team could hit paydirt. A penalty kick shootout ensues and with both Gabrielle Conrad, on her first ever competitive penalty kick, and Alex Ross finding the back of the net, Panhellenic was in business.
That’s, in large part, because keeper Emilie Bouchard was at her athletic peak, making a pair of diving stops and aided by the cross bar on one attempt. Bouchard foils the Wexford side on four consecutive kicks as Sudbury advances with a 1-0 win.
“That’s the best game I’ve ever seen her play” beamed the long-time Sudbury coach of his goaltending star. With a couple of months planned to simply catch their collective breath, Panhellenic will ready itself for a second kick at the CGSL can.
It’s one Roach believes can be different the second time around. “We basically didn’t know anything about anybody back then. The girls now know what it takes. I would like us to shoot for third or fourth in the standings”, said Roach. It’s a target that we’ll be following with interest.
The roster for the 2009 edition of the Panhellenic Storm included: Tianna Faubert, Jenna Hellstrom, Alex Ross, Kara Lloyd, Mariah Clark, Samantha Cooper, Madelyn Pos, Stefanie Valle, Emma Persi, Halley San Cartier, Emilie Bouchard, Gabrielle Conrad, Victoria Falvo, Amy Francella, Megan Gallo, Michelle Graham and Kea Koutsoutkis. Assisting coach Kevin Roach this year was team manager Tina Clark.
For Sudbury native Ted Leck, his involvement with the Sudbury Canadians U12 girls dates back to early 2007, shortly after his return to town from a work-related stint in southern Ontario.
Garnering some initial experience in the realm of soccer coaching in both London and Hamilton, Leck’s interest in finding a competitive soccer outlet for his young daughter leads him to long-time Canadians organizer Frank Malvaso.
“He (Malvaso) and I just have a real kindred spirit, and we hit if off from day one”, explains Leck. “Frank Malvaso has been a great mentor for me – he’s helped me to create a development plan for the players.”
It was a plan that first sprouted roots in the summer of 2007 as the Canadians organization fielded three separate U10 teams, one of which was coached by Ted Leck. Moving forward with a core of five players into the U-11 division, the team begins to show progress, dropping a post-season 1-0 decision to Valley East in a single game NRSL (North Regional Soccer League) showdown.
Edit. Note: Valley East would subsequently lose in a Challenge Game against a Southern Ontario opponent
Although Leck has roughly a decade of soccer coaching experience, it is clearly the psychological aspect of working with youngsters that most engages the local pastor. “I think one of the things that I love most about coaching is dealing with the challenge of trying to motivate eighteen different players who may all be of the same age, but are at very different points in their lives.”
Building off their tough loss of one year earlier, Leck focused the Canadians efforts on gaining more and more touches on the ball, as well as working to provide the positive reinforcement that would see players looking to challenge their limits.
“I was so happy to see them just having the confidence to go for it – trying to trap the ball, trying to make the great shot, trying to deke out a defender”, says Leck. With an NRSL loop that had now expanded to five teams, including an entry from Thunder Bay, the Canadians went wire to wire, posting an undefeated record in capturing the league crown and earning an automatic berth in the CGSL (without the drama of a Challenge Match).
“I’m incredibly proud of my girls – in any game that I’ve ever coached them, I’ve never seen them quit,” summarized Leck of his young troops. And given that he’s about to follow the same path that Kevin Roach did some two years ago, that’s a character trait that may well come in handy next summer as the Canadians face a tough step forward.
The 2009 Sudbury Canadian U-12 girls' lineup features: Michela Filipetto, Jamie Ricci, Paige Querney, Kathleen Bertuzzi, Mykaila Koronovich, Jenelle St Jean, Mikayla Taus, Jennie Philipow, Sarah Mulvenna, Samantha Booth, Rachel Leck, Megan Coutu, Mackenzie Gallo, Brianne Rodrique, Madyson Tellier, Rebecca Black, Courtney Sauve and Erin Watters.
Along with head coach Ted Leck, the Canadians' management team includes trainer Jody Spicer-Rodrigue and assistant coach Donna Leck.