One family. Two vastly different styles of play. One common goal. Thirteen-year-old Karly Hellstrom is following the same path to soccer success that older sister Jenna travelled before her.
So far, so good. The younger sibling, currently in Grade 8 at Carl Nesbitt Public School, was recently the only player from the northern regional girls soccer ranks to be selected to advance through to the provincial tryouts.
(It should be noted that Sudburian Lina Audet, who was injured at the time of the fall ID sessions, is also participating in the provincial tryouts along with those who were selected from the September weekend, and a few others who were sidelined at that time.)
Four years older, Jenna Hellstrom has already made her name at the provincial level, donning the Team Canada jersey at various times over the past few years. Though she might have remained in the shadow of her older sister as she started down this road, Karly has arrived, brimming with confidence.
“I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting to the (provincial) tryouts,” she said recently, taking in the Laurentian Lady Vees playoff encounter with Carleton. “I thought I did really well in the first ID weekend (in May). I was really nervous though.”
The talented young athlete also dusts off the competition in most every cross-country race she has entered in recent years. Hellstrom comes by it naturally.
“My mom really wanted me to play basketball,” she said with a smile. “But I really wasn’t into basketball. Soccer is my sport.”
While both sports provide for some degree of physicality, there is something about the very aggressive nature of challenging for a ball on the pitch that seems to provide just the right fit for Hellstrom — for both Hellstrom girls, it seems.
If the competitive spirit that burns within is the tie that bonds the two young sisters, there is much that differentiates them on the turf of James Jerome.
“We’re both tough and like to challenge for the ball,” Karly said. “But (Jenna) is a defender and I like to attack more, use my speed down the line.”
The contrasting styles became quickly apparent to the man most responsible for trying to hone local soccer talent — regional coach Brian Ashton.
“Jenna played with her heart on her sleeve, she was never one to bow out of a challenge — a little more of a grinder, you might say,” Ashton said. He returned to Sudbury a few years ago, after enjoying the opportunity to play soccer professionally, both overseas and in Toronto.
“Karly, at the same age, I think is a little more skillful,” he added. “That said, they are different positions, a different sort of player. We converted Jenna into a defender. I don’t see that happening with Karly,” he said. “She’s more of a real attacking player.”
And it was that offensive creativity, the will to force the issue, that paid dividends recently when Hellstrom gathered with the top soccer talent in the province.
“I knew I had to show that I could take defenders on one-on-one,” Karly said. “A lot of people really don’t like to try that, because you have a chance of having the ball taken away.”
It was a skill-set she worked on over the summer, both as a member of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club Impact U-13 Girls team that competed in CGSL Level 3 play, or on weekend sessions with Ashton.
Encountering varying degrees of success at bringing it all together, Hellstrom ultimately could not have enjoyed better timing for the moment of her soccer epiphany.
“That was a different Karly we saw on that weekend,” Ashton said. “That was a real positive sign, that she could lift her game up when she had to. She distributes the ball well, she’s quick, she’s athletic, she can run past people, which is key at this level.
“She’s done fantastic,” Ashton added. “I’m very proud of her.”
With this initial step out of the way, Hellstrom is keenly aware of the obstacles that still lay ahead, challenges that will be tougher to overcome than simply over-taking her fellow cross-country racers, momentarily holding a lead.
“If I end up making it, it will make me so happy,” Hellstrom said. “But if I don’t make it, I will just keep trying.”
Spoken just like her older sister.
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