Coach Jeff McNeil and company cobbled together a roster for the Thornhill Challenge Cup last weekend and while the venture resulted in just one tie in three games, the longtime bench boss could not have been more proud.
With four affiliated players from the local U12/U13 squad and two underage players already on the roster, the team was noticeably younger than most of their opponents.
Realizing what he was up against, McNeil formulated a defence-first strategy that limited the eventual silver-medal winning team from Ajax to just a single second half goal. Some early game jitters from the Sudbury side gave way to a 4-0 final score, but it was a solid introduction to the level of play that would be required for the local ladies.
Looking much more at ease, the Impact salvaged a 2-2 tie in Game 2 with St. Catherines Roma before their legs finally fell victim to a bench that never featured more than a single sub.
Deadlocked in a scoreless tie with Thornhill at the half, the Impact eventually succumbed 2-0, with McNeil glowing about the effort of his troops.
"The players from the 2000/2001 team gave the older girls energy and reminded us all that we play for the love of the game," said McNeil in a post-tournament email.
"The raw enthusiasm of the four kids helped all of us play better together as a team."
Nowhere was the lack of depth felt more noticeably than through the Impact midfield, with Claudia Ghiandoni, Isabelle Mercier and Manon Valiquette leaving their all on the field of play.
Battling through injuries, Kamilla Kowal and Alyssa Haapala combined with stalwart stopper Andrea Tilson, helping to hold opponents at bay.
"The great thing about the older players on this team is that they’re not afraid to suggest their own ideas in terms of strategy and play," noted McNeil. "We actually implemented their defensive/dynamic shape suggestion, which worked out really well."
McNeil will be moving back in 2014, devoting his full-time efforts to the younger Lady Warriors team moving forward.