Just two years beyond their 25th anniversary, the Sudburnia Soccer Club remains one of the more recognizable names within the local sporting scene, consistently home to one of the largest gatherings of youth soccer talent in the region.
The summer of 2017 is no different, with players ranging all the way from the U4 developmental program right up to the U18 divisions. The group has also maintained their strong ties with many of the most visible soccer venues in the city, regulars on the southern grass pitch of the James Jerome Sports Complex.
But as we discovered during our Thursday evening visit, some change is inevitable. With numbers in some divisions posing a challenge, the decision was made to merge the U12 and U14 girls groupings into a single larger bracket, with the Comets and Whitecaps going toe to toe in a tightly matched affair.
If some concerns originally existed about bringing together young ladies from grades five to eight, they appear to have been alleviated, with the girls responding well to the environment, even those on the younger end of the spectrum.
“I really like this team because there are older kids,” stated ten year old midfielder Ava Soucy of the Comets. “It’s kind of cool having kids that are a different age, and they work with you. They’re better, so they’re role models for the younger ones. I like it, because I kind of get to see what they like to do and I copy it.”
Despite suffering a 2-1 loss, Soucy and her mates were pleased with the manner in which they attempted to execute the game plan, or at least some of the helpful words of wisdom from their coach. “He said to try hard and don’t worry about whether you win,” said Soucy. “He wanted us to try and move our feet a lot, and try and keep the ball to ourself, away from the enemy team, and then pass it to our players on our team.”
A 12 year old recent grade six graduate of Cyril Varney Public School, Mackenzie St Amant of the Whitecaps agreed with the outlook that Soucy had offered, when it came to dealing with a larger than usual range of ages in their division.
“It’s challenging, but it’s a good challenging,” she said. “It’s going to payoff when we’re older. We’re going to get better from playing against older girls, giving us more difficulty now. At first, you get a little bit nervous with some of the players that are really tall, but once you’re playing the game, you kind of get used to it.”
St Amant is in only her second year within the Sudburnia loop, gradually becoming aware of her love of the sport before moving forward with a full summer of commitment. “I was doing a lot of soccer at school with my friends, and that was our favourite sport,” she said. “Our moms talked to us about doing something in the summer, soccer camps and stuff.”
“We liked Sudburnia the best, so we decided to join.” Thankfully, St Amant fit right in with a team that is showing the way in league standings, a product of a very well-balanced squad. “Our forwards have really good shots, and our defence don’t play around with the ball and stuff,” she said. “They kick it up as fast as they can, so we can get the ball and go right to the net.”
Kaija Moore and Emily MacIsaac scored for the Whitecaps, while Sydney Gauthier-Finley managed the only goal of the game for the Comets. Unfortunately, as many are well aware, Mother Nature has done Sudburnia and other outdoor leagues no favours this summer, with at least some precipitation part of the mix pretty much every week to date.
No matter, for 11 year old Joshua Vaillant of the 12U Mixed Whitecaps team, who decided to make the best of the weather. "Sometimes it’s been pouring and people don’t come,” he explained, noting some forfeited wins that he would should as soon avoid. “I think it just feels like going swimming. When it’s raining and we’re raining, sometimes I will just run around the building and get wet, so I get used to the water, so the water doesn’t make me cold during the game.”
A Sudburnia regular since the age of four or so, Vaillant has netted a fair share of goals, perfecting his strategy, especially in those cases where he enjoys a few seconds to decide on a target for his kick. “I try aiming for the corners, the four corners,” he said.
“I look one way, but I shoot the other. It makes it less obvious that I’m going to shoot a certain way. If they (keeper) go on that side, I have the choice to shoot on the other side. Especially when the nets are big, it’s good to aim for the sides.”