The Sudbury soccer scene is going to be super busy, pretty much every single week from early June through until at least mid-August or so.
This past week, however, is traditionally just busier than most.
You can blame that on the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) “Summer Camp”, the week-long venture based out of Cambrian College that assembles about a hundred or so local youngsters for five full days of soccer development, training, and a whole lot of fun.
“I really started liking soccer when I was little – I found it really fun,” said nine year old Lia Gallo, indoctrinated to the game at the age of three, but making her first appearance at the GSSC July tradition just this year.
“My nono started the family playing soccer,” added the grade four student at Holy Cross Catholic Elementary School, paying tribute to her grandfather, Arnie Gallo. “It was my first sport and I made a lot of friends.”
Of course, much has changed in her approach and knowledge of soccer over the course of the past six years. “I'm faster and I know the game better,” she said. “When I first started, I kept asking questions – Where do I go? What do I do here? Now I know where to go.”
While Gallo was excited to continue working daily on her skill development, it was a very special surprise visitor that most captivated her camp experience. “Yesterday, we did shooting, then we saw Jenna Hellstrom,” she said excitedly. “She told us how it was in France, how it felt to go for the first time.”
And like Gallo, the Sudbury World Cup representative acknowledged the need for a never-ending search of soccer related information. “Even she said, she has to know the game better,” said Gallo with a smile.
A fellow GSSC camp participant and also a student at Holy Cross, nine year old Dominic D'Angelo hasn't stopped smiling this week. “I love soccer,” he said. “My mom always played soccer when she was young.”
Returning for a second year, the multi-sport youngster, who also plays hockey, runs cross-country, and is looking forward to taking a shot at basketball, had already determined his most anticipated day of drills.
“I love dribbling, so Monday is always best for me,” said D'Angelo. “Monday is usually dribbling day. You learn that you always have to look up, always look up. You take a quick glance, then look down, then look up again.”
If dribbling is his strength, shooting, for the moment, is his kryptonite. “I'm not a good shooter, but I think I'm a little better now,” he said. “I just don't shoot it hard enough. Usually when I try and shoot it, I hit too much of the grass and not enough of the ball.”
Thankfully, D'Angelo enjoys watching a pair of his soccer heroes on TV, hoping to pick up tips here and there.
In fact, the talkative youngster noted that he has spent some time convincing well recognized local coach Giuseppe Politi of the benefits of tuning in to catch Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona in action, since Politi seems confused, wanting to spend more time watching the sub-standard play of Juventus FC.
(Just don't bet any money on D'Angelo winning this debate).
As for bragging rights much closer to home, the GGSC Impact U21 women will enjoy that mantle for the time being, posting a 1-0 victory over the Northern Soccer Academy U21 women in mid-week Ontario Women's Soccer League action last Wednesday.
A first half goal from call-up Grace Cranston and a very solid defensive effort from the Impact women, backstopped by North Bay keeper Eleonore Gravel, allowed the GSSC reps to hold off the NSA crew, with Kent State sophomore Karly Hellstrom easily the biggest concern for the Impact.
“We were obviously aware of Karly and a few of their other stronger players,” noted centerback Emma McDougall. “We tried to kind of play around them. And from the middle through the front, we wanted to connect some passes, rather than just play the long balls.”
A veteran of the Impact program throughout her youth, McDougall has returned to the pitch this summer, right on the heels of completing her second year of Health Promotion studies at Laurentian University, and without any real soccer training during the off-season.
“I've played it for so long, so it's hard to just stop completely,” she said. “At least I'm transitioning now into retirement,” she added with a laugh. “I do try and keep up my fitness during the year, but it is hard. I think my endurance and cardio, that's the hardest part for me.”
McDougall would combine with the likes of Allison Byrnes, Cassidy Burton and a handful of teammates, trying to keep things clean ahead of goaltender Gravel. “I've actually known Allison since I was in grade four,” said McDougall. “We have a really strong relationship where we've learned to know who steps on for what kind of person, depending on their speed.”
“And this is my second year with Cassidy. Last year, we played centreback together and we created a really great relationship, as well. I think all of us have a lot of speed, so if someone gets beat, we don't worry as much, because we know someone will get back.”
Finally, make it five wins in six outings for the GSSC Impact U13 boys, blanking Barrie White 3-0 last weekend at home, as netminder Nikola Tuttle registered his fifth shutout of the year. While there is still plenty of fine-tuning required in the play of the team in the final third, members of the Impact are more than pleased with their defensive presence on the pitch.
“Our defenders don't just clear the ball right away,” explained winger/striker Maximus Mina Aziz, the 13 year old son of Egyptian and Ethopian parents. “They look up, take their space and look for open people to pass. We try and pass the ball to each other's feet instead of doing those long balls, until we get more advanced and learn to control the ball from mid-air.”
And while awaiting the pass, Mina Aziz knows to prepare ahead of time. “I have to get myself in the right position to receive the ball, to open myself up,” he said. “In my mind, I have to think ahead, where am I going to go. That should determine how I should position myself.”
Mina Aziz was joined on the scoresheet by teammates Chad Tullio and Atom Thususka, with each one finding the back of the net once each.