“It was a nice feeling to go down there and do that. It really shows what Sudbury soccer is capable of.”
Sure, Sudbury soccer is not what it was in the 1950s or 1960s, when European immigrants who grew up on the sport would flock to northern Ontario in search of work in the mines, the carryover of which was a vibrant and talented group of young men who could excel at the nightly tradition that was the beautiful game at Queen's Athletic Field.
Still, Nicholas Walker, author of the story-opening phrase, is not incorrect. Youth competitive soccer, on a local level, is enjoying a resurgence, one which catapulted GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact teams to a memorable four for four performance in Huronia District Soccer League Cup final action last Sunday in Orillia.
The victories came in a variety of manners, from the expected, to the tougher than expected, and on through to the somewhat unexpected.
Coach Evan Phillips was among the more excited, given the presence of his Impact U13 boys team in that latter category. Making their mark with an 11-1-0 record this summer, Phillips and company had played the undefeated (13-0-0) and league leading Innsifil Stampeders only once, to date, dropping a 2-0 to their southern foe back on June 14th.
The locals would also be without the services of striker Chad Tullio, author of 16 of the Impact's 67 goals. No matter. “We went out and played amazing,” said Phillips, summarizing the 3-0 Sudbury win over Innisfil. “One of the best things about coaching youth soccer is that if you get them in a positive learning environment, you will see improvements.”
Kudos were doled out right across the roster, from goal scorers Seth Gardner, Atom Thususka and Maximus Mina, on through defensive leader Matt Dzivy, right up to “go to” midfielder Liam Binks. Yet it was keeper Niko Tuttle who particularly delighted his mentor.
“He has been one of our biggest works in progress,” said Phillips. “We went from everyone playing everywhere, last year, to having a specific goalie this year. He came in and had a great game, made a few big saves for us when we needed it.”
While coach Nick Walker and the Impact U14 boys had split their four games to date with the Bradford Eagles, their in-season progress made for a little more breathing room for the folks at the back end of the formation, as Sudbury opened the day with an impressive 5-2 triumph.
This, from a team which lost outings by scores of 2-0 and 2-1, to Bradford, in the second week of the season. “I think on that weekend, we made a lot of mistakes, getting caught on turnovers, conceding goals on set pieces, that we were able to fix shortly after,” said Walker. “We were able to tweak those, as we went along.”
“This was a dominating performance, from start to finish.”
GSSC goal scorers included Maliq Olanrewaju, Josafat Castillo, Nicholas McGee, Braydon Ethier-Perras and John Campbell.
Meanwhile, the dominance of the Impact U14 girls has been well documented. An unblemised record in the Huronia League was highlighted by the fact that the team had yet to surrender a goal. Though that was the case again on Sunday, in the HDSL Cup final, a scoreless game at the end of regulation time against the North Bay Lakers was uncharted territory for the GSSC reps.
“I think our girls were pretty nervous going into the game, in the sense that they were expected to win,” noted head coach Stephane Legrand. “They got thinking about the things that could go wrong, the negative things. We made a lot of errors, where we didn’t need to.”
With the game decided on penalty kicks, the Sudbury squad righted the ship just in time, receiving goals from Kaija Beljo, Sophia Oommen, Paige Goudreau and Kiera Levac and a couple of key saves from Cadyn Goulais, downing the Lakers 1-0 (4-2).
Doing double duty on the day, Legrand was thankful for the contrast in his outings, as his U16 boys team cruised to a 7-0 win over South Simcoe United (Bailey Gervais-2, Michael Reich-2, Owen Charles, Peter Reich, Samuel Branconnier).
“In games like that, the biggest thing is to remind the players that we may have played them earlier and beat them with relative ease, but at the start of the game, it’s still 0-0,” said Legrand. “It’s still soccer, things can happen. They couldn’t get complacent.”
There was no complacency to be seen Thursday night at the James Jerome Sports Complex as the top two teams in the Sudbury Women’s Soccer Club league battled it out. The defending champion T2 Training Systems rode a three goal performance from Sophie Paradis and a slightly injury depleted Sudbury Credit Union lineup to a 4-1 win, as the teams prepare for the league finals in just a few weeks.
“We’re just a bunch of competitive girls, so the dynamic is really great on this team,” said Paradis, now 22 years of age. “We go all out and it really shows in our performance. Once we get on the field, that’s when it gets serious.”
Paradis, along with her sister, had played on another team in the league before joining forces with T2 Training last summer. “I didn’t know them that well,” she confessed. “I knew that they were a good team that played hard, but I didn’t know that they were going to be this friendly. I’ve made so many friends joining this team.”
A team organizer since 2007, Anna Frattini is back, again, with the Sudbury Credit Union, suiting up alongside a core of teammates who have largely played together for the last four years or more, including well-known soccer siblings Serena, Natasia and Halley San Cartier.
“We have a few girls injured and a few that have already left to go to university and college,” said Frattini. “This was a little disappointing, but I thought we played a good game.”
Finally, in Central Soccer League action, the GSSC Impact U16 girls continue to enjoy a supremely competitive summer, recording a pair of 1-1 ties last weekend. Allie Weiler found the back of the net in the Saturday encounter with King City, while Prezzley Hutchinson hit the mark Sunday versus Oak Ridges, as Sudbury enjoyed a 1-0 lead in both outings before allowing the game-tying goals late in both games.