Last year, the Yellowknife Bay Soccer Club – the Sundogs – had one of the best showings an outdoor soccer team from the NWT ever had at the Toyota U-15 Cup, which serves as the club nationals for that age group.
This year, unfortunately, wasn’t one of the best showings an outdoor soccer team from the NWT has ever had, but head coach Joe Acorn knew it would be like that.
The boys and girls teams flew home on Monday after competing in the Toyota U-17 Cup and as Acorn expected, it was an eye-opener in both pace and skill. In the end, neither team won a game, but winning wasn’t the goal this year.
“I knew it would be tougher than it was last year,” said Acorn. “A lot of the kids that made the trip this year are still eligible for U15 and of you take the average age of our teams, it was about U15-and-a-half.”
The boys started off their round-robin with games against Vaughan SC from Ontario and Feildians AA from Newfoundland and Labrador, both of which ended in lopsided losses, although Austin Sleno managed to find the back of the net against Newfoundland and Labrador.
The girls, meanwhile, were up against Suburban FC from Nova Scotia and the Sherwood Park Phoenix of Alberta in the round-robin and they were on the wrong end of both results in those games. Katie Hart, though, found the back of the net against Nova Scotia.
They both went on to the seeding round, where they played their final games on Monday morning with the girls dropping their contest to Surrey United of B.C. while the boys lost to the Suburban FC boys from Nova Scotia.
Acorn said the games against the bigger provinces is where the team were really blown out of the water but against the smaller jurisdictions, the games were a bit closer.
“We only lost 2-0 to Saskatchewan and 3-0 to New Brunswick in the girls side so it wasn’t a total runaway for the other teams,” he said. “This was all about learning and experiencing what it’s like at a higher level.”
He also said the decision whether to take teams or not was a tough one, but in the end, taking them this year will make them better for next year.
“It was either not go or take really young teams, but they will be better off next time,” he said.
The teams were so young that only one player among both teams is aging out, meaning both teams will have virtually the same line-ups for next year, he added.
Another thing the teams had to deal with was the quickness of the opposition.
“Against Ontario and B.C., you’re playing teams that have one or two touches of the ball and they’re already down-field,” said Acorn. “It’s tough to plan any sort of attack, because they’re so fast and you can’t build any sort of pressure, because it’s a pace that not a lot of our kids have seen before. You have to think faster at this level.”
The hope for Acorn is to have girls and boys go to both the U15 and U17 events in coming years, which would double the output from this year. Last year, it was just a U15 girls team that went to nationals.
“Going this year with young teams was a good learning experience both for the players and the coaches,” he said. “The kids got to see the level of play and we as coaches got to see what we need to work on over the next year.”