The Oakwood Barons girls soccer team is bubbling with energy underneath the lights of Monarch Park’s dome as players ready for a pre-season game against Marc Garneau.
It’s April 25, and the squad comprised mostly of Grade 10s and 12s is looking to solidify itself, and to work out the “cliques” as head coach Lisa Palozzi described it.
Though Oakwood’s girls soccer team is a two-time OFSAA competitor in the last two seasons, they’re dropped down to Tier 2.
“The reasoning was we wanted to have more fun, have more possession,” Palozzi said. “Oakwood is traditionally a Tier 1 school.”
Gathered around Palozzi, interjecting intermittently with vim, are strikers Maya Shaffer-Young and Rora Asgodom, as well as centre midfielder Nicky Bellan and winger Gabbie Douglas.
These Barons are all in Grade 10, and save for Shaffer-Young, who’s a transfer from Harbord Collegiate, they were a part of the
OFSAA team from 2013.
“It was a great experience,” Bellan said. “It made our team bond a lot, getting to know each other.”
Still, Palozzi explains how the squad made it the provincial championships by way of a technicality.
“It takes nothing away from the team, but we were Tier 1 AA, meaning there were very few AA teams to compete against,” she said. “So we actually played in the finals against a single-A team [University of Toronto Schools].”
No matter who won that game, Palozzi said, both would qualify for OFSAA, simply because “there aren’t enough AA Tier 1 teams competing.”
“Sadly, we won’t be going to OFSAA this year, but we’ll see next year what the team is like,” she added. “We haven’t done too well because those schools out in the country — I say out in the country [but] they play rep together — they become very strong teams.”
The loss of an OFSAA opportunity does not take away the wind beneath their wings, as the girls continue to banter with their coach before the game, offering suggestions to bond.
There’s talk of a barbecue, and Palozzi only smiles.
Then they’re back to sharing their optimism for the season that will have them facing Central Tech, Malvern, Rosedale Heights, Marc Garneau, Harbord and Forest Hill.
“We’re working hard,” Bellan said. “I think we’re going to do well this season. We have strong players.”
Those strong players include the talents of Sabrina Sousa-Sampson, who was absent from the Monarch Park Dome, nursing shin splints.
She was back though, to help the Barons kick off their season with a 7-0 trouncing of Central Tech Blues at home on April 28.
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