By Keith Lacey
The Memorial Day holiday weekend south of the border provided a local girls soccer team with memories theyÂ?ll carry for many years to come.
The Sudbury Canadians Under-17 Soccer Club did themselves proud by claiming their division in one of the most prestigious minor soccer tournaments held in North America.
Head coach Frank Malvaso and his 14 players competed last weekend in The Virginian, the largest soccer tournament in North America with an incredible 708 teams registered.
The Sudbury team participated in the girls under-17 division and won it all up against 35 other teams.
Â?IÂ?ve been coaching soccer in this city for 25 years and I canÂ?t remember another minor team from Sudbury ever winning something this big,Â? said Malvaso. Â?Virtually every team in the girlsÂ? under-17 was either a state champion, state quarter-finalist or state semi-finalist. To win it all against this kind of competition is unbelievable and a real credit to all our girls.Â?
In the preliminary rounds, Sudbury Canadians earned a 2-0 victory over Fuller Hamlets of Massachusetts, won a hard-fought 2-1 game over Woodbridge Dragons from New Jersey, and then edged SYC Explosion from Virginia.
In their first playoff game, they edged Kopling FC from Ohio 2-1 and in the championship game Sudbury shut out a team from Hewlett, New York 1-0.
SudburyÂ?s team became only the third Canadian team to win their age division in the 27-year history of The Virginian.
Â?We knew the competition was going to be tough and we knew we would have our hands full, but all of our players responded extremely well and the girls did just a great job of closing down the opposition,Â? said Malvaso.
Giving up only two goals throughout the tournament clearly shows team defence was outstanding and only confirms the adage in sports that defence wins championships, said Malvaso.
Â?As a coach you really canÂ?t ask for more than that from your defensive crew,Â? he said. Â?The two goals we did give up came from set plays resulting in rebounds in front of our goal. That is as close to perfection as you can get and there is no doubt we had the best defensive crew in our age group in the tournament.Â?
The tournament not only attracts hundreds of teams, but a small army of college scouts, said Malvaso, who was told there were about 230 recruiters from Division I and Division II schools that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
NCAA rules forbid American schools from making scholarship offers until the high school year is over, but Malvaso said several Division I schools have indicated they will be sending Â?letters of intentÂ? to offer scholarships to three or four Sudbury players.
He expects almost every one of the other 10 girls to get some kind of scholarship offer from Division II schools.
Â?Very few girls get the 100 per cent full ride over four years, but there are a lot of schools that offer 50 per cent, 70 per cent and 80 per cent scholarships,Â? said Malvaso. Â?Most of those schools also offer jobs on campus and grants and loans to student-athletes.
Â?I wonÂ?t know for about another month how many offers our players are going to get, but itÂ?s my best guess every one of our girls is going to be approached by at least one American school.
Â?I think the big question is who will accept and where will they go.Â?
This summer, the Sudbury Canadians will again participate in the Ontario Youth Soccer League against top competition from southern Ontario. They will also travel to compete in two more American college showcase tournaments, said Malvaso.
Locally, the team plays in the Sudbury youth competitive league in the boys division.
Malvaso is confident this yearÂ?s team can make the semifinals in Ontario Cup action. There are close to 30 competitive Under-17 teams in the province, but Sudbury has managed to reach at least the quarter-finals in their age division each of the past four years.
Â?WeÂ?re ranked number three in OntarioÂ?our goal is to reach the final four in Ontario Cup action and see what happens from there,Â? he said.
Members of the Sudbury Canadians include Megan Schutt, Lauren Poldoski, Francesca Malvaso, Alyia Papani, Sally Parent, Deahdra Bowier, Regina Armiento, Melynda Roach, Julia Boschetto, Stephanie Bertolli, Anelia Pulice, Kristen Cecchetto, Lauren Duhaime and Kailey Smith.