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Panhellenic ladies struggle through tough summer

It's been a mostly forgettable summer for the Panhellenic U-21 ladies to this point. The combination of the challenges involved with trying to keep players interested in competitive soccer ranks as they get older, along with an unusually large grouping of key injuries has left coach Giuseppe Politi and company scrambling for bodies for the majority of their Ontario Women's Soccer League (OWSL) games this year.

A familiar scene last weekend at Cambrian College as no less than six call-ups take to the field with Panhellenic facing the always-tough Markham Lightning

Dayna Corelli tallied the only goal for Panhellenic on Saturday, with the team now sitting in 7th place in the eight-team loop with a record of 2-6. Battling players at least a couple of years older, many of whom possess post-secondary experience, was simply too much to ask for the likes of Tessa McDougall, Mariah Clark, Alex Ross, Renee Hechler and Jenn McCann, all of whom stepped up valiently to support their older counterparts.

Not a great deal of "silver linings" to be gleaned from this experience, although keeper Jaimee Lafraniere is certainly getting a ton of practice in anticipation of her first year of university competition at Laurentian in the fall. Lafraniere made at least 4-5 key saves to avoid the Sunday score hitting double digits, getting some extra help along the way from the goal posts and crossbar as well.

Still from a Laurentian perspective, third year striker Lisa Watson looked both healthy and impressive, scoring a pair of goals and setting up two more. Of course, that was of little consolation to Politi and company given the fact that Watson plays for Markham. "Tactically, we just wanted to sit back and keep the game reasonable", explained Politi.

"I mean, we have 15 year olds, 16 year olds out there playing against university level players with scholarships in the States. This team is running out of gas." In fact, at this stage, there remains only defender Jessica O'Bumsawin and Dayna Correlli who were part of the OYSL team that survived relegation for a handful of years with Politi at the helm.

With the reality that the Sudbury Canadians U-21 ladies, fielding a nice core of talent with the likes of Cloe Lacasse, Serena San Cartier, Karolyne Blain and others, but receiving only limited competition within the Central Region Under-21 grouping (witness scores of 11-3, 7-0, 8-1, etc..), it would seem to be common sense, from an outside perspective, to blend the squads together into a solid unit that could compete against the best in the province.

"I have no problem with the teams merging at all" suggests Politi, who also stated that this would be his last year of involvement with this particular group of players. "I would actually recommend it. I contacted Frank (Malvaso) at the beginning of the year to see if he was interested, allowing his players to play at the highest level."

Unfortunately, it would not come to be, leaving a concern at this point with the possibility of relegation for the Panhellenic side (although the Canadians might well secure a Sudbury berth as they currently lead their division). Although it's been a long season at times for this battle-weary crew, they will close out the season with games against their two nearest competitors.

Sudbury travels to Sault Ste Marie this coming weekend to face Sault Ste Marie Croatia (2-5-1), closing out their 2010 campaign with a two-game set against the West Rouge Storm (1-7-0) the following weekend in Richmond Hill.

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