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Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018
Another U21 team assembles the soccer troops
by Randy Pascal

New teammates, a new league, plenty of new opponents to face, but still the familiar faces of coaches Chris Simonato and Vince Muscolino on the sidelines.

The GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact U21 women, the second of two teams in that age category hosted by the local competitive soccer group, are three games into their schedule in the Central Region Under 21 division of the Ontario Women’s Soccer League.

Following a lopsided loss at the hands of what appears to be a super-stacked and currently undefeated King City Royals crew (record of 6-0-0), the Impact bounced back to triple the Whitby Iroquois 6-2.

Chelsie Sargeant scored twice to show the way for the winners, with Miranda Zilkowsky, Taylor Watkins, Haylee Lavigne and Jamila Sargeant all chipping in with one goal apiece. The locals dropped a 3-1 decision to North Toronto Nitros in game three, as Laura Fratin hit the mark for Sudbury, but will look to jump back into the win column this weekend with road encounters against both the North York Explosion (2-1-2) and Peterborough City (1-1-1).

“There are a lot of different girls this year, and we have a lot of different age ranges, from about 14 to 21,” stated keeper Megan Smith. “It’s a lot different than the last few years that we have played. We’re focusing on a lot of passing and talking, because we’re not used to playing with every single girl. Everybody has played on different teams, and there’s girls from out of town.”

For the 19 year-old graduate of Marymount Academy who has just completed her first year at Cambrian College and will be entering the Nursing program in the fall, all of the changes can create some fairly unique challenges.

“Communication is key, of course,” said Smith. “I like to talk to my defence. It’s kind of difficult not knowing everyone’s name yet, exactly, but I’m getting there.” For the core of girls who have stayed together over the years, a collection of perhaps five or six players that includes Smith, there is also the jump from their standard opposition within the Huronia District Soccer League, sliding in to fill one of the slots in the OWSL.

“Compared to last year, it’s a lot different, a lot more difficult competition, for sure, especially as a new group of girls getting together – but we’re doing pretty well,” suggested Smith. “I like that we have a lot of speed, we have a lot of different kinds of girls, different skills.”

Joining the team for the first time ever, in 2017, is 21 year old Erin (Ontario) native Susie Chard, moving north last fall to pursue her studies in Psychology and Biology at Laurentian University. Finding work in Sudbury for the summer, the speedy winger opted to stretch her soccer career by at least one more season, having grown up playing frequently in Georgetown.

While Chard knew not a single soul as she trekked out to her first practice, the transition has not been nearly as tough as one might suspect. “With any teams, all girls in soccer are pretty similar,” she stated. “They’re active, they’re outgoing girls, they enjoy being there.”

“After a couple of games, you get to know each other and you get comfortable and everyone becomes friends.” Introduced to the team by virtue of a friend’s mother who shares the same employer as one of the coaches, Chard is hoping to add an element to the mix that will complement quite nicely the existing talent on hand.

“I’m pretty comfortable carrying the ball, running down the line, crossing it,” said Chard. “I’m pretty fast. And I am comfortable switching positions. If we are short on defence, I will go back.” It’s that kind of love of the game that rings true for teammate Manon Valiquette, a regular with the Impact squad over the past three years.

“Soccer is a priority for me, it always has been,” she explained, as rain poured down on their practice. “I do work two jobs, but I still make time for soccer. It’s relaxing. I like my team, I like playing, I like coming out here, even in the rain.”

Currently 18 years old and studying Bio Chemistry at Laurentian, this graduate of Ecole Secondaire du Sacré Coeur said that she has already noticed some chemistry developing on a team that features a great deal of variety.

“It is hard, because we have different age groups too, which makes it harder, and we are all used to different things,” outlined Valiquette. “But we do practice twice a week, so we are all getting used to doing the same drills, the same positioning and all that, so it’s working out.”

Still, there is work to be done, coming out of their respective shells, as the Impact women look to overcome a shortened season in trying to maintain their berth in the OWSL. “We’re all kind of shy, kind of new to the team, so we’re all pretty quiet on the field, which is not good at all,” said Valiquette.

“We need to practice talking to each other, being loud out there, yelling for the ball. We have to work together, as a team.” That “team”, this summer, brings together Allison Byrnes, Susie Chard, Laura Fratin, Cassandra Gingras, Eleonore Gravel, Alex Jameus, Christine Kettle, Deanna Krueger, Haylee Lavigne, Victoria Muscolino, Bailey Narasnek, Kiara Parry, Jamila Sargeant, Chelsie Sargeant, Danica Small, Megan Smith, Manon Valiquette, Taylor Watkins, and coaches Vince Muscolino, Chris Simonato and goaltending coach Jeff McNeil.

In other GSSC news, the U21 men recorded a big win last weekend, blanking the Barrie Spirit 1-0. Recent Cambrian commit Isaac Oliveira drilled home the only goal of the game, keeper Connor Vande Weghe made it stand, and the team received yeoman’s work from both Dominik Huot and Brandon Moxam, according to head coach Evan Phillips.

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