Certainly no accusing the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact U16 girls of rushing into Central Soccer League play.
After working with the core of this team for the past few years on a local and regional level, venturing off to a handful of tournaments, coaches Chris and Matt Binks took the plunge this past off-season, entering their crew into the 17-team collection of talent that is CSL Level 3.
With Muskoka FC constituting their closest opponent, the Impact ladies will tackle a schedule that is dotted with the likes of Oak Ridges, Peterborough, North York Cosmos and West Toronto.
So far, so good.
The U16 reps extended their unbeaten string to open the summer of 2019 to three games last weekend, spotting Darlington S.C. a 1-0 lead at the half, chalking up a 3-1 lead to improve to 2-0-1. With many a northern team having struggled in the past, as they exposed themselves to increased competition from the south, one can hardly blame this group of girls for approaching their new adventure with a touch of trepidation.
“I was really nervous, thinking we were going to get creamed all the time,” suggested team veteran Kyra Mallory, a 16 year old grade 10 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. “Our coach told us that we should be right around the middle of the standings, roughly, but I was really nervous. We've never done anything this competitive.”
Still, there was the belief that regardless of their end record, the venture was necessary and worthwhile, if only to prepare those Impact players who may wish to continue playing, beyond their high school days. “I think it's a lot better, because we get a lot more games in,” said Mallory. “And in practices, we know what we need to work on, because of our games.”
Of course, it hasn't hurt at all that the move to the CSL may well have encouraged a few other talented locals to climb aboard, including Confederation Chargers striker Chelsea Leduc, a 15 year-old who has previously limited her soccer exposure to the more recreational Valley East Soccer Club setting. “I really enjoy soccer, so I wanted to play at a more competitive level,” she said.
“In the Valley, they don't challenge as much. And here, it's a lot more rough, so you have to stand your ground more with competitive. That's what I am trying to improve on.”
While Kyra Mallory can draw on more than ten years of on-field partnership with the likes of long-time friend and teammate Tessa Favero, Chelsea Leduc is just gradually gaining a foothold with the group. “The teamwork has come along nicely,” she said.
“In the beginning, I didn't really know how everyone played. But now, they talk to me more, so our communication is a lot better. At striker, we will play one that attacks more and one that stays back more, and I can play both positions.”
“Now I know when to pass through balls to the other striker, and they know when to get it to me.”
Goals by Lauren Fearn, Ellie Laberge and Grace Cranston powered the Impact to their win over Darlington, featuring a lineup that also included Alena Smania, Allie Weiler, Annsophie Greer-Borisko, Arijana Tuttle, Emma Coutu, Jayda Cacciotti, Mackenzie Roberts, Michela Bussolaro, Myla Weiman, Nora Dzurbian, Prezzley Hutchison, as well as Leduc, Mallory and Favero.
Meanwhile, the GSSC Impact U14 girls continue to steamroll their opponents in Huronia District Soccer League (HDSL) action, their sights set on making the jump to the CSL next summer. Sudbury thumped Collingwood United 9-0 last Sunday, with Kiera Levac netting four goals for the winners.
Joining her on the scoresheet were Sydney Coe, Brooke Dugas, Kylee Hitchen, Kiana Levac and Samantha Bourdon. Stepping in as head coach this year, Stephane Legrand is pleased to see a far different team than the one he had heard about, in this age bracket, in years gone by.
“They seem to be playing with more confidence, more aggression this year, and it seems to be translating into good results,” he said. “They're gelling very well, but it helps that we've had success.” Still, he knows he must push, if not only for the bulk of this summer, then to prepare the squad for what awaits them should they earn their berth in the CSL in 2020.
“The one thing that we have somewhat been struggling with recently is winning that first ball, without it bouncing, really attacking that first ball,” said Legrand. “That's what I have been trying to instill in them, be it on clearance opportunities, balls in the box, offensively or defensively, just trying to win that first ball, because that creates the play.”
Ontario Women's Soccer League play also continued on the weekend for a pair of local entries, as the Northern Soccer Academy U21 team edged the King City Royals 1-0, with the visitors earning the split the next day, upending the GSSC Impact U21 women 4-1.
North Bay native Shea Jeanneault drilled home the game-winning goal for NSA on Saturday, while Cydney Koper and Kayleigh Coufal shared the shutout. Call-up Grace Cranston scored in a losing cause for the GSSC the next day.
Finally, the GSSC Impact U21 men were looking to hit the win column for the first time this year. With the Darlington Wolves in town, the locals came close, but not close enough, doubled 4-2 by the visitors as Jonathan Grebe and Kevin Martin found the back of the net for coach John Hick and company.