With a number of local soccer leagues hitting the midway mark of their schedules, games are beginning to take on a little more meaning, with several excellent matchups noted on Sudbury and area fields this past week.
A Monday trek over to the Delki Dozzi Sports Complex featured a taste of the old and the new of the Italia Flyers Men’s Recreational Soccer League, as the very familiar faces of the Zulich crew were battling the newcomers that comprise the Caruso Club entry.
A scoreless opening half gave way to more wide open play in the final forty minutes, as quality chances appeared with regularity. The Caruso youngsters were thwarted on back to back strikes in tight, as the likes of Eric Sampson, Justin Bilodeau, Anthony Taus and Chase Noble all tried to convert from inside the box.
Dodging those bullets, Team Zulich would counter in the 63rd minute as Garrett Edwards found just enough open room to slide the ice-breaker into the far corner of the net, putting his team on top 1-0.
After waiting more than an hour to score their first goal, Zulich needed less than five minutes to double their lead. Miguel Peña was taken down in the box, with Edwards called upon to bury the penalty shot, a task that he completely comfortably.
The Caruso Club had one final shot at making a game of it, with Barrett Fournier beating his defender wide, before running out of room in trying to maintain a decent angle on keeper Andrew Fines, as the shutout remained intact.
Edwards narrowly missed completing his hat trick in the dying minutes, bouncing a shot off the crossbar following a lovely feed from Dave Simon, but in the end, the Zulich men did not need the added cushion, closing out the books with a 2-0 win.
The chemistry of the winning side was almost a given, with a core of six to seven players having suited up together for some twenty years now, dating back to their 1997 OFSAA Boys AAA Soccer silver medal winning team at St Charles College.
“The touch is still there, it’s just the legs, that’s what goes,” noted team veteran Richard Corsi. “With the experience, we’re able to move the ball around, so we can play with teams with a lot of youngsters. The first touch is key, and a sense for the game.”
“If you don’t have that instinct of where your teammates are, it makes it a bit tougher. That’s a huge advantage for us.” To this day, the group will reconvene, post games, with Rob Zulich (currently sidelined), Angelo Ceccheto, Mike Massimiliano, Steven Beites and others reminiscing about the glorious run of two decades ago on their home turf.
“It’s hard to get rid of those competitive urges, but in the end, it’s the social aspect that brings us back,” said Corsi. “Once you stop playing, it’s hard to go back in soccer.”******************************
Twenty-four hours later, the guys would give way to the women, as the Sudbury Women’s Soccer Club schedule included a pretty decent encounter with Maslack facing the Eclipse. Once again, scoring was at a premium as both teams displayed solid defensive acumen, anchored on the back line by the presence of Kerine Knight (Eclipse) and Melissa Renelli (Maslack).
The defence would be tested, on both sides, as the Eclipse unleashed the speed of striker Regina Martinez and Melynda Grossi, while Maslack answered with the experience of Andrea Zenette, Jessica Lonsdale and Brigitte Massimiliano.
With the contest still scoreless, the Eclipse threatened early in the second half, with Martinez sneaking behind the last line of defence, but rolling a shot just wide. The first offensive break would go the way of Maslack as Lonsdale, who had misfired only slightly on a few chances earlier in the game, caught a ball just right, drilling a shot from 20 yards out just under the crossbar.
“I suppose I was always a kicker growing up, and it’s stuck with me over the years,” noted Lonsdale of her strike, with pace, that found its way to the back of the net. “I usually get a bit more room if I kick from out around the 18 yard box. I get a better view of the goalie.”
Lonsdale is now in her fourth year with the Maslack team, having returned from a stint in New Zealand with her husband (Joe). “I played for three years over there with the local women’s team,” she said. “It’s a little more serious there. This is pretty social compared to what we played in New Zealand, but I suppose it’s a similar level.”
Not that she expects a walk in the park for the remainder of the summer. “Next Thursday, we switch to a top half, bottom half, so things get a bit more serious starting next week,” stated Lonsdale. “We’re still pretty casual, pretty recreational – we don’t have a coach.”
Despite the more relaxed approach, the Maslack women did manage to pull away in the latter stages of the second half. The team converted perfectly on a corner kick, as the ball drifted directly to the feet of Massimiliano, who made no mistake rifling her shot home.
Massimiliano would add a second goal five minutes later, following up on a pair of acrobatic saves from the Eclipse netminder and whistling her second rebound opportunity in for a 3-0 lead.