The keys to the success of the Cambrian College soccer program are as multi-faceted as the players dotting the rosters of the respective teams. While there is absolutely no denying the impact of head coach Giuseppe Politi, blessed with an infectious passion for the game of soccer, and the knowledge to implement strategies that reflect the relative strengths and weaknesses of his teams, the reality is that the results were very much part and parcel of a group buy-in.
Athletes would bring along their own unique soccer background, sometimes needing to alter the way in which they had traditionally played the game for the greater good of the team. Each and every such cog in the wheel was critical.
St Charles College graduate Courtney Ceccarelli was very much a known commodity within local circles long before her arrival to the Golden Shield family. Blessed with outstanding speed, the younger of two girls in the family was typically placed at the top of the attack, a role where she could combine her quickness, with her fierce tenacity in battling for the ball.
"I"ve always loved running, so I loved being up front, and being able to run a lot," said Ceccarelli. "You have a completely different role as a forward. You have to have a certain kind of push, an aggressive factor in you."
That she had, though the lines became blurred, at times, in her youth, as Ceccarelli worked to strike the proper balance. "You have to not get stupid fouls," she acknowledged. "I never tried to be aggressive to the point where I would get a card."
"Sometimes, calls just happen. You want to be aggressive for the sake of knowing that if the ball is there, you want to win it over the other girl. You don"t want it to be detrimental to the team." Listen to her words closely, and it is crystal clear that there is a natural maturation to Ceccarelli, both as a person and a player, that has gone a long way in allowing her to thrive in a leadership role at Cambrian.
As much as she enjoyed the position of striker, Ceccarelli realized quickly that the arrival of the likes of T.K Rocca and Tiffany Johnson in her first few years with the Shield might create a need for her skill-set to be used in a more complementary role.
"In training camp, that first year, we were doing drills and stuff, and T.K. and me kind of clicked right away," recalled Ceccarelli. "She was always a little bit quicker than me, so when I had the ball, I could always get it to her to finish."
"Courtney has the fitness to be a wide player, and she can provide excellent service (crossing ability) into strikers," agreed coach Politi. "In my opinion, she is more effective on the wing, where there"s more space to use her speed."
"I think I have more of a playmaker position now," added Ceccarelli. "When I get the ball, I know that there is someone up top, and I am going to go support them, but I like to know that I did the work to get them the ball."
Make no mistake, this 20 year-old third year Nursing student is absolutely fearless in her pursuit of the ball. It is exactly that kind of mentality that endears her to Politi. "Courtney demonstrates the standard of competitive edge we need if we want to challenge for a medal on a yearly basis," stated Politi.
That is apparent, once again, as the discussion turns to the 2015 season, a wonderful campaign in which the Cambrian women came within a ten minute stretch of upsetting the powerful Algonquin Thunder and ensuring themselves no worse than an OCAA silver medal. Still, a fourth place finish was an impressive accomplishment.
"I honestly still think about it," Ceccarelli conceded. "It"s sad to think that we let it slip away with only a few minutes left, but I think the fact that we got there and did almost beat them was encouragement for next year, knowing that we can do it."
And when she sets her mind to it, there is little that Courtney Ceccarelli cannot do, on the soccer pitch, regardless of the role she is asked to play.