Cambrian soccer opens Saturday against Humber Hawks
by Randy Pascal
In a sense, the upcoming home opening weekend will mark the launch of a new era for Cambrian Golden Shield soccer.
Certainly, there is no denying that both Dayna Corelli and Stephane Legrand have been familiar faces on the scene, dating back several years. And as was witnessed with a short visit to practice sessions Monday evening, it's not as though Giuseppe Politi has completely disappeared from the pitch.
But with Corelli and Legrand both fully assuming their roles as head coaches of the women's and men's team respectively, there is a general feeling in the air of "turning the page", even moreso than might be the case with the advent of every new season of OCAA action.
"I've been a head coach for a number of teams over the years, so from that perspective, the game prep and everything, all of that, I'm familiar with," said Legrand, a one-time central piece to the back-line defending crew during his days as a post-secondary varsity athlete at Cambrian. "I think once we play this week, however, then it will really come into full effect."
After missing the playoffs by just two points last year, posting a record of 3-6-1, the Cambrian men in camp present an interesting conundrum for Legrand. "We have a good mix of players that are returning, as well as new recruits," he said. "A lot of the returning players are towards the back end, which is nice to see. But there's a large influx of players coming in that are attacking minded players, which is a little unusual from a Sudbury perspective."
"I'm looking forward to working with this team," he added. "I think it's a good dynamic of new and old, veterans and youth coming in, a lot of talent, which makes my job as coach somewhat challenging, trying to figure out where I want to place all of these talented players."
In many ways, Timmins native Donovan Fuller represents the old guard, a typical northern Ontario athlete who understands exactly where he fits in within the grand scheme of things. "I've always just been the hard worker, go out there and grind it out," said the five year veteran, a graduate of O'Gorman High School.
"That's more my style of play. I'm not the most skilled, but I will leave my heart out on the field, every time." A student within the Civil Engineering program, Fuller has taken nicely to his role as a defending midfielder. "My job is pretty much to win a tackle, win the ball, and then give it to someone much more skilled than myself," he said with a smile.
"That's generally been my position on this team. I've accepted that role, and I enjoy it." It's that kind of buy-in that can greatly enhance the chances of success for any new coach. Dayna Corelli understands just how much she will need to lean on a returning core to assist with a 2018 women's squad that is largely rebuilding following a steady climb that culminated with hosting provincial championships last fall.
"We're kind of a half and half (new and old) team, which makes it even more interesting," she said. "Some of these girls, I've had for years. I've taught them the same concepts eight or nine times. Some of these girls have never seen it before. To get everybody, in a 90-minute session, to all leave on the same page, that's big."
"The vets have really been stepping in and helping out," Corelli continued. "There's lots of people that need help out here, so we need those say to explain maybe when to slide over a step, who to cover. If you don't have the help from the people that have been here three or four years, it could really be a big rebuild."
As for a realistic outcome on the field, Corelli contends that it's still too early to tell, much of the time currently being spent on just making sure there is some semblance of order come time for the first whistle on Saturday. "We've been going, position by position, and just giving them a baseline defensively and offensively, what to do in each position."
"It's important for them to know what I need to do, in this position, if my team has the ball, and what I need to do if my team doesn't have the ball, in this position." Those, however, are not questions that local product Megan Coutu has been asking herself. A graduate of Collège Notre-Dame, the 21 year old fourth year nursing student returns for one final year of competition on the heels of three straight appearances at provincials.
That experience provides a context for perhaps her most important message to the newcomers to the team. "The biggest thing is to take it all in," she said. "This is my last year and I'm so sad that I won't be coming back next year. It's a super awesome experience. Just be sure to push yourself to better yourself as a player."
There is a poise and presence that is evident with Coutu, even as she expands her comfort zone in better fulfilling her job as the final line of defense. "Having (goaltending coach) Evan (Phillips) here, always working, having that dedicated time to do keeper stuff, that's helped a bunch," she said. "And I do think I am a little more vocal now than I used to be. Evan's been on me about that."
The Cambrian soccer crew will open the schedule with a rare twilight double-header, as the women welcome the Humber Hawks for a 5:30 p.m. first touch on Saturday, with the men taking to the pitch at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday games against the Sheridan Bruins revert to the more traditional noon and 2:30 p.m. start times.