In their wildest dreams, the GSSC Impact U-15 Girls soccer team could not have imagined the heights to which they would climb during an unforgettable summer of 2012.
The local ladies capped off a remarkable season a few weeks back, capturing the CGSL (Central Girls Soccer League) Cup. The achievement further enhanced an already impressive team résumé, one highlighted by becoming the first local team to earn a promotion from CGSL Level 4 Premier status to the CGSL Level 3 ranks after finishing first in their division of eight teams.
Like most successful Sudbury youth soccer teams that have come before them, the Impact wove an interesting and meandering path, one which really started to show direction in the spring of 2011.
The backdrop for this particular grouping represents a merging of young ladies who were first introduced to the competitive soccer ranks via either the Panhellenic Sharks, Sudbury Canadians or Valley East Dragons.
It is likely no coincidence that the first notable steps in moving forward as a group fell directly in line with the arrival of coaches Dayna Corelli and Renée Jacques. The fact that neither of the local talents, who have gone on to don the jersey of the Lady Vees, were affiliated with any of the three previous staffs allowed for a relatively clean slate to be created.
With that in mind, Corelli went back to square one.
“There were so many fundamentals that were missing,” Corelli said, shortly after the team party a few weeks back. “I think it was just a product of systems where you can more or less just go out and play.
“Before we could proceed even with tactics or systems, we had to go back, making sure our first touch was improved, working on our general form in passing or chipping or kicking,” she added.
The end result in the summer of 2011 was a team that was competitive within the CGSL, avoiding relegation, but still a ways from challenging the elite. Considering the hurdles, it was a solid first step.
“I don’t think that it was that much of a challenge, but more, just getting used to each other and the way everyone plays, knowing the strengths and weaknesses,” said ultra-intense central defender Katie Lapienis.
An impressive stretch of soccer one year ago gave way to an end-of-season lull and some definite second thoughts as the curtain prepared to raise on the summer of 2012.
“We started off this season not that great,” Lapienis said. “It didn’t feel like we were connecting. But we spent a lot of time talking and bonding. There were points of not believing in ourselves, not believing in each other.
“But I think all of us knew what we wanted,” Lapienis continued. “We just needed Dayna and Renée to show us how to get there.”
That process took on added urgency, in the minds of many players, following a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to Unionville-Milliken — a bitter defeat made tougher to swallow given that it came on a late goal.
That was the last loss Sudbury would sustain. Winds of change were in the air, evident to each and every person involved with the team.
“We had a few new girls this year, but basically the same core,” said league-leading scorer Riley McEwen. “But we came ready to play every single game this season. That’s what made the difference.”
Well, perhaps that, combined with having something to prove to a southern Ontario contingent that rarely gives much thought to opponents north of Barrie.
“A lot of times, those games really come down to who wants it more,” McEwen said.
Possessing a deft touch inside the penalty box area, McEwen would strike for 13 goals this year, though few were more memorable than her final tally of the season.
“There were maybe some nicer goals, but scoring in the Cup final, when Jenelle (St. Jean) played a beautiful ball to my feet, all I had to do was finish,” McEwen said. “The fact that it was Unionville, the fact that it was the Cup final, that’s what made me like this goal so much.”
It was just one in a myriad of moments that defined the season to remember, the evolution of a work in progress that still continues.
“Last year, we had a couple of glimmers, some moments where I saw the potential,” Corelli said. “But it would come and go. Now, we finally have the cohesion and support off the field to be successful. It took a year for things really to fall into place.”
That said, the work hardly stops here. The success of 2012 brings with it the new territory of 2013, one in which the Impact finds itself within the CGSL U-16 Level 3 ranks.
“There’s a lot of fine-tuning that we need to do,” Corelli said. “We could probably use a couple more bodies to round out our lineup. And we need to improve a lot on set piece defending.”
But that’s OK. In the minds of these talented young soccer stars, their coaches will help show them the way. It’s a united path they are determined to follow.