“We’re happy to be back in this league. We have some unfinished business.”
With those words, Sudbury District Soccer Club (SDSC) 16U Celtics striker Gio Mastroianni threw down the gauntlet, acknowledging the return of his team to the Huronia District Soccer League after a one year absence.
“It’s a lot more competition than what we are used to,” he continued, taking a break from practice Thursday night. “Last year, we didn’t have much to play with.” Now in his fourth summer with the team, the 16 year old student at St Benedict is pleased with the formation that will take to the field this summer.
“We’ve added a lot of youth to our team, some guys that are 14 or 15 years old,” said Mastroianni. “We’ve improved our players and are very confident right now. We haven’t always been that way before.”
All in all, the current state of affairs leaves head coach Wayne Trainor in a pretty positive frame of mind as well, leading a group with which he has mentored a core of players for some six to seven years now.
“You try and see where all the new players’ skills are at,” noted Trainor. “At this age, with 15 and 16 year olds, the camaraderie and team building, I let my captains work on that. The dedication is still there for these ones,” he added.
“As they get older, you lose a player here and there. The ones that are out here want to be out here, because there are a million and one options for them. It’s not as hard to motivate them anymore.”
If anything, the challenges in April and May arise mostly in trying to accommodate a very condensed high school schedule with also finding time to get some early season preparation done, dealing with a regular season schedule that kicks off before the end of the month.
Thankfully, there is some year-round chemistry at play with the Celtics, which isn’t necessarily the case for the majority of competitive soccer teams in Sudbury. “I keep these guys together in the winter as well,” said Trainor. “They play futsal against men’s teams.”
Though the team finished in sixth place among the fourteen teams that competed in the Divison “B” ranks locally, the man who knows them best suggested the talent is there to produce even more. “We did well, there was improvement throughout the year, but the games that we lost, it wasn’t physical, it was mental,” declared Trainor.
“At this age, they need to deal better with adversity, whether it’s a bad play, a bad call, a bad pass - they are horrible with that. It’s nothing I haven’t said to them before, even if I say it nicely.”
As for the most positive takeaway from an off-season of futsal, Trainor goes straight to the point. “Clearly the footwork,” he said. “Futsal is a lot of one on one, so that transitions to the full field really well.”
Similarly, Mastroianni can take note, very quickly, that scoring attempts in the outdoor games tend to look dramatically different than the shots that futsal attackers would be trying to convert in the months before the snow melts. “I look more for soccer sense out here, trying to see what the best play is to make,” he said.
“I have a lot of speed to use with that, and I think my shooting ability has gotten a lot better.” Sudbury keeper Connor Trainor hopes so. The more his team scores, the less he needs be concerned about posting a clean slate each and every time out.
The bonus, this year, lies in a slightly different mindset for this crew. “The team is a little bit more defensive now,” said Trainor. “Keeping the ball out wide, making sure to not let any free shots come up, keeping the rebounds cleared.”
Throw in the influx of new talent, and there is reason for optimism within the Celtic side. “The new kids are fresh, so they want to make an impression in the league,” said the lifelong goaltender. “That helps. They just want to become part of the team, so they try harder.”
Like a good solid handful of his teammates, Trainor is trying to adjust from a winter spent indoors, quickly re-focusing on the differences that he will face, whether on turf or on grass. “Futsal is a lot different,” he said.
“In futsal, there are no goal kicks, you just roll the ball out. In futsal, you have to go down a lot faster. In this, you have to make sure to stay up in case the ball is going higher. In futsal, the nets are much smaller.”
The 2017 edition of the SDSC 16U Celtics includes Connor Trainor, Noah Caufield, Stefano Mastroianni, Tyler Dupont, Kameron McCue, Jordan Pincivero, Nik Donato, Luca Mastroianni, Giovanni Mastroianni, Larry Gauthier, Andrew Simser, Brayden Beaupre, Adam Tear, Saim Saqib and coaches Wayne Trainor, Peter (P.J.) Rocca and Peter Trainor.
On a separate note, tournament play kicks off for at least one local soccer team this weekend, as the SDSC 18U Celtics boys head to Oshawa for their annual May trek, participating in the 2017 Frank Sobil Spring Classic.
The locals will face the Seaway Valley Blazers, Port Hope Ganaraska United and Ajax FC, hoping to secure a top two spot in their pool, and with it, a berth in the Sunday afternoon semi-finals.