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Quality Inn - Sudbury
Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
U21 women double the fun in 2017
2017-05-06
by Randy Pascal

The sight of some forty female soccer players practicing together on the pitch at the James Jerome Sports Complex earlier this week could easily have brought tears to the eyes of GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) coaches Dayna Corelli, Giuseppe Politi, Stephane Legrand, Vince Muscolino and Chris Simonato.

At a time when the challenge of travelling to out of town games with a complement of players that would allow for at least a substitution or two, mid game, can weigh heavy on the minds of those entrusted with guiding the troops, the notion of having some flexibility at the U21 level is both somewhat distinct and welcomed.

Of course, with the recent graduation of young talent from a pair of U17 and U18 teams last summer, along with the returning core from the Impact team which earned a promotion in 2016, the numbers are not a complete surprise.

“Just the critical mass, the numbers that we have, finally combining those teams, is wonderful,” said Corelli. “Having the best players at their best positions, and also having a team in the “regional” bracket to support us. It’s not going to be struggling just to grind out having enough players.”

In fact, such is the depth of talent this year that the GSSC Impact will actually field a pair of U21 teams, one that has accepted the promotion to the “provincial” status that was earned by Corelli and company last summer, and the other sliding in to fill the vacated spot in the “regional” league.

“The level that we are playing (provincial) us a huge jump in caliber, so to have people available that can play and that the level of talent doesn’t drop off dramatically is a huge game-changer for us,” said Corelli.

In fact, even the approach that is being taken in terms of developing this accumulated glut of talent is somewhat unique, at least in terms of the Sudbury soccer scene. “Our challenge is learning how to maximize each of the training sessions, considering some of them are at vastly different levels of playing experience, and they will be competing in two different leagues,” said Corelli.

“At some point, we will obviously need to break off and do our own thing, but in general, we are approaching this as a 44 player endeavour.” As one might expect, a group this size can generate something of a “snowball” effect, creating a buzz that makes it so much more appealing for players with options to join in the fun.

Typically, Owen Sound area native Clarissa McArthur would return to her old stomping grounds, following the completion of another year of academic studies at Cambrian College. Not the case for the summer of 2017 for the Golden Shield sophomore midfielder.

“Knowing that Dayna and Giuseppe would be coaching us this summer, I really wanted to stay with them so that I can improve my game and make sure that I have an even better season next year with Cambrian,” stated McArthur. The success of the fall seasons is finally starting to flow directly into the following summer.

And with the jump to the provincial league, the framework to maintain a level of play that leaves one prepared to face the upper end of the OCAA is solidly in place. “We know that going into this season, it’s a lot stronger competition,” said McArthur.

“We’re going to have to be playing our best game basically every game. A lot of the teams from Toronto have a lot more to pick from. We know we will need good touches, good passes, and to be strong on the ball each game.”

Thankfully, almost half of the U21 provincial roster will enjoy a reciprocal benefit, bringing a certain chemistry into the mix that should only grow in time to feed their post-secondary schedule come September.

“The Cambrian season is such a short season,” said McArthur. “My first year, it took a while before we all kind of meshed. We saw it a little more this past year. I definitely think that playing with them all summer, we’ll get to know each other’s game really well. Going into our Cambrian season in the fall, I think we’ll be one unit now, really strong.”

For the likes of Kaitlin Houben and the vast majority of the Impact lineup, the decision to remain in Sudbury was a much easier one. No reason to leave the home cooked meals and constant support of family and friends for those who were born and raised in the Nickel City.

Having just completed her second year at Cambrian, Houben understands that while the influx of additional players is a godsend for this crew, it also presents a test in assembling the various cliques that might have advanced together as part of one of the three teams that are effectively being merged.

“Communication,” exclaimed the Bishop Carter Gators’ product . “You need to know where everyone is and what everyone is doing at every point in the game to make sure that everything flows smoothly.” Throwing a slight wrench into that mix is the reality that player movement, around the field, might well be a necessity of life as the numbers increase.

“Last summer, I played center back, but for Cambrian, I played left back and center mid, so I’m not really sure where I am going to be this year,” said Houben. “I guess wherever I’m needed.” Despite not being a natural left footer, the 19 year old Valley East native provides a wonderful flexibility for Corelli and staff, having learned how to compensate while playing what amounts to her “weak side”.

“It’s about getting my body behind the ball,” Houben suggested. “If you’re just swinging your leg out there, especially if your left leg is weaker than your right leg, it’s just going to go off your foot and you’re going to shank it.”

The 2017 GSSC Impact U21 Provincial Women’s team will feature Megan Coutu, Josée Scott, Emma McDougall, Jennie Philipow, Alex Smuland, Kaitlyn Rocca, Jenelle St Jean, Kaitlin Houben, Kianna Houben, Dana Isaia, Sarah Mulvenna, Alexis Belanger, Brenna MacMillan, Brianne Rodrigue, Clarissa McArthur, Lina Audet, Morgan Melnek, Trinity Desjardins, Brianna Scarfone and Kayleigh Coufal.

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