Pascal on the Pitch: Greater Sudbury competitive soccer rolls out summer schedule

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Yes, it would have been nice if the local competitive soccer community could enjoy a full winter’s use of a decent indoor facility that ties into the compact summer schedule in these parts.

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But given that league games are actually happening as early as May 15 this year, and that any groups facing off-town competition have benefited from at least a solid handful of prep training sessions and skill sessions with coaches and staff boys and girls of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club won’t make a big fuss about it.

The fact is that the now U15 Impact Girls, a roster that brings together more than 20 young athletes born in either 2007 or 2008, didn’t even have a league to play in about 12 months ago with coach Doug Rosener and Co., who cobbled together a series of friendlies that allowed at least some development until 2022.

Now it’s time to build on that, with a handful of areas likely to be stressed to begin with.

“One of the things we missed was communication,” said midfielder/forward Leticia Silva, a 13-year-old eighth-grade student at St Benedict. “We need some time together off the pitch just so we can tell each other things and not take it personally. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one talking on the field and we talked about it to try to get everyone talking instead of just having me yelling around the field.”

The Brazilian-born, well-spoken and pleasantly chatty teenager brings a very different background to the world’s most popular sport than most of her teammates and is grateful for an environment at Sudbury that embraces football for both genders equally.

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“People here are much more accepting of a girl who plays soccer,” said Silva. “There weren’t many girls’ teams in Brazil; I was known as the girl who played soccer. The girls actually walk past me here.”

Mind you, there were a few habits that needed to be broken as Silva found her way into a different environment of football.

“I definitely play more aggressively,” she admitted. “I’ll use my body in some ways, but not too many fouls. Sometimes I’m too aggressive and get a foul or a warning.

“I have to learn to control it. When I played against the boys in Brazil back then, they thought it was okay.”

By joining this team, Silva has joined a core of girls who have been teammates since the age of 10, including striker/midfielder Natalia Begic, who admits her strength is likely to shine more when she’s in attack .

“I think I’m pretty smart with the ball,” said Begic, a freshman at Notre Dame.

“I also think I’m pretty quick at times when it comes to getting defenders on the ball. I think now it’s all about learning how defenders play, learning their strengths and then working on that.”

With Huronia District Soccer League action set to begin for the U15 Impact on May 23 in North Bay, Begic finds herself in the middle of a busy soccer circuit, playing alongside her older sister Andrea and the rest of the CND Alouettes at the Open’s top-flight girls’ division high school football.

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“Playing with the older girls helps me use some of their strengths to use on my own team when playing against girls my age,” said Begic.

Rounding out the 2022 Impact U15 girls list are Aiden Panella, Amy Flores, Aria Petroski, Bryn Hobson, Gabriella Massimiliano, Gabrielle Luoma, Avery Gamble, Hailey Ayre, Kaylee Vaillancourt, Barbara Ceccon, Lilah Shelby, Maia Hammell, Misaki Diavolitsis and Grace Kalu, Mya Massimiliano, Isabel Rheault, Janelle Richer, Isabelle Chalmers, and Monique Fitzmaurice.

Meanwhile, the GSSC U13 Impact girls will get their very first taste of out of town later this month in Collingwood, causing a stir in the group as they continue to refine the end product for head coach Steve Gallo.

“We’re going to be traveling a lot,” noted centre-back Lia Gallo, a sixth-year student at Holy Cross.

“I am looking forward to.”

Gallo, one of the bigger players on the team, had barely completed her Lady Wolves spring tryouts and cracked the U13 AA team roster when she quickly switched gears. Luckily, she believes her two primary athletic pursuits can work to her advantage.

“I’ve been playing soccer for a long time, but I just started ice hockey recently. I find that both help each other. I don’t really see my size as a challenge – I find it more of a strength than anything else.”

As for her Impact crew, Gallo expects the group to be ready for the move to 11v11 football for the first time in their young career.

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“It’s going to be a lot tougher, a lot more running,” Gallo said. “I know it doesn’t sound like a lot because we have more players, but the fields are a lot bigger. We practiced a lot of long-distance stuff and conditioning.”

The U17 Impact girls opened the CSL game with a bang last summer, beating their first two opponents before settling down in the middle of the field at the end of the season. It marked the first time these Sudbury girls faced the likes of Markham and Oshawa and Quinte on a more consistent basis, and it laid the groundwork for what they hope will be a slightly different style of play in 2022.

“Most of the time last year, as soon as our defenders had the ball, we just kicked up and hoped for the best, hoped Kiara (Levac) could get away with a breakaway,” suggested Kiana Levac, the older sister and the more defensive of the two Siblings, although she split training time between centre-back, the position she spent most of 2021 at, and defensive midfielder, one of the options available in 2022.

“This year we will try to play more football, pass it on the field, play from behind and involve our goalkeeper more.”

As the team look to replace three players who did not return to the team this year, Levac is confident the Impact U17 girls are still well equipped to take on their opponents in the York Region Soccer League.

“Mentally, I think we all understand the game pretty well,” said Levac. “We just need match practice now. We need to practice opening up to each other; we need our passes to the point; We have to call for the ball and be louder.”

And thankfully, early indications are that local teams will have time to work on that and more as 2022 welcomes the pre-pandemic normalcy of competitive football in Ontario.

Pascal on the Pitch is back for another football season. Randy in the Rings will return in the fall.

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