First, her older sister blazed the trail. Then Morgan Melnek followed in her footsteps - and then some.
The younger sister of soccer Lady Vees defender Ashley Melnek, Morgan was recently named to the Ontario U14 Provincial Girls Soccer team, the highlight, to this point, of a relatively young career in the sport.
A grade eight student at St Anne School in Hanmer, Melnek first started playing recreationally in Valley East, making the jump to the competitive ranks by the time that she was nine years old.
"When I was younger, I really didn't know what I wanted to do, but my sister kind of inspired me," she said. "I started watching her games and then asked if I could play more seriously."
Blessed with outstanding speed - she is also a multi-ribbon winner at the SCDSB track meets in the spring - Melnek could be utilized in a variety of positions, a feature that truly proved helpful when it came to cracking the Team Ontario roster.
"Originally, I just played anywhere, but I liked striker," she said. "I was playing outside right mid last summer with Woodbridge, but I'm playing center mid with the provincial team."
"As an outside mid, I would have plenty of runs down the side, looking to make crosses," Melnek added. "As a center mid, you have to move to both sides, crossing with both feet."
Also quite comfortable representing her school in sports ranging from basketball and badminton to track and soccer, Melnek really amped up her devotion to the latter when she entered the regional ID program in Sudbury as an underage player.
"A lot of coaches that I had, they all helped me out in some way, even starting in houseleague," Melnek suggested. "But Brian (Ashton) helped me the most, taught be to be more aggressive, helped me get into the provincial program."
"About a year ago, Brian told me I have to work more on my defending, so I've worked hard on that." Melnek was one of just over fifty young ladies invited to take part in the provincial team tryouts last fall, a process that would see her parents (Lance and Carla) responsible for making the trek to Toronto each and every weekend.
Despite having expanded her exposure to elite level soccer by hooking up with the Woodbridge Strikers last summer, there were still some hurdles to overcome once the tryouts began.
"That first weekend, I can say that I wasn't very good," Melnek noted. "Everybody was nervous, everybody didn't play to the best of their potential. Gradually, the coaches talked more to us and I made more friends."
Just before Christmas, Melnek was informed that she had made the cut, selected as one of thirty or so players who would join the Ontario crew for regular practice sessions throughout the winter in preparation for an excursion to Spain in March.
"I've been to a few places out of the country, Washington and Pennsylvania, but I've never flown before and we're going over an ocean" said Melnek, more than a little excited about the adventure that awaits her.
Along with the support from Ashton, the youngest of two children in the family points to the experience of playing Level 3 CGSL (Central Girls Soccer League) opponents throughout last summer as a member of the Strikers as helping her odds in making Team Ontario.
"I missed my friends, and my family, of course," conceded Melnek. "But it made me think faster. My decision-making became quicker, because it's a faster pace. And I learned a few more moves from my teammates."
ArchivesLea Lemieux - November 2020
Syla Swords - May 2020
James Bertrim - April 2020
Cale Bast - May 2019
Sydney Coe - May 2019
Nicholas Burke - September 2016
Adam Bertrand - September 2015
Madison Laberge - September 2015
Ariane Saumure - May 2015
Nina Kucheran - May 2014
Dario Beljo - June 2013
Noah LaPierre - July 2012
Tanner Horgan - June 2012
Kayla Folz - May 2012
Damien Giroux - February 2012
Adrian Kuchtaruk - June 2011
Ben Lagadin - May 2011
Kelsey Pitre - September 2010
Cedric Primeau - May 2010
Amanda Kring - May 2010
Malcolm Bilton - November 2009
Krysta Burns - July 2009
Samantha Cooper - April 2009
Bray Crowder - February 2009
Jenna Hellstrom - November 2008
Victor Hopper - October 2008
Jordyn Lacastro - June 2008
Lindsay Scruton - May 2008
Kasey Thompson - May 2007
Jacob Smith - April 2007
Danielle Coulombe - January 2007
Zakarie Glaude - December 2006
Spencer Burton - July 2006
Justin Leclair - April 2006
Matt Boivin - March 2006
Ryan Punkari - February 2006
Rebecca Mailloux - January 2006
Ross Proudfoot - October 2005
Mike McCue - July 2005
Cloe Lacasse - July 2005
Kristine Lalonde - June 2005
Scott Vaillancourt - May 2005
James Clendenning - May 2005
Erika Kiviaho - April 2005
Sammy Behnke-Groves - March 2005
Jaimee Lafraniere - January 2005
Trina Czerkas - January 2005
Danielle Rancourt - December 2004