It’s been the summer of soccer here in the townships, and not just because of the World Cup. While France and Croatia were battling it on the international arena, closer to home, the Woolwich Wolfpack U13 girls were barreling through the leagues and tournaments and rising to the top.
And after a stellar season on the playing field, the girls team are now heading to the Ontario Cup quarter finals two weeks from now. From a pool of over 30 teams from across the province, the Wolfpack have persevered to the top eight.
“They’re a great group of girls that play hard, play strong, and they get along really well,” said Sudo Kraja, the team manager.
“They not very selfish… they’re not worried about scoring. They obviously want to win and they’re very competitive. But some of them would rather just give a great assist than actually put the ball in the net,” he added with a laugh. “It’s actually really, really interesting to watch.”
There was some initial disappointments, says Kraja, as the highly competitive team was placed in a league below their skill level – at the less competitive L5 level instead of the L3 league.
“It’s disheartening a little bit, because there’s a little more competition in the L3 than in the L5. So it’s a little disheartening, but we just keep playing,” he says.
They made sure to play fairly and with good sportsmanship, he adds, but over the regular season, the Wolfpack still won every game they played and placed first in their league by a wide margin.
“But then what we do to keep these girls competitive and on the edge, we sign up for big tournaments,” explained Kraja, like the 2018 Canton Cup in Michigan. The team even tied for first in Buffalo.
The U13 girls even qualified to play at the Ottawa Champions Showcase next weekend, despite the tournament only being open to L3 teams and higher. Kraja explains that the Wolfpack team was actually given an exemption to enter the Showcase, even though they were only technically a L5 team, because their track record.
“I showed [the showcase president] our résumé of what we’ve done, where we’ve played and our accomplishments. And the president, he allowed us. He said, ‘Fine guys, I’m good with that. I know these tournaments, I know them very well.’ He knew about Canton, he knew about Buffalo, he knew about all the tournaments that we did in the past year and how well we’ve done, so they allowed us.”
The showcase is reportedly considered one of the most competitive tournaments in Canada, and even invites the attention of university and college teams from all over.
“So we have the showcase coming up. A lot of scouts from the States are going to be there,” said Kraja. “We’re not looking for scouts. We just want to play well. We want the girls to have that competition, have the confidence, and just build some character within these girls.”
So despite the setback of being placed in a lower league, the U13 Wolfpack have more than been able to prove themselves and stay strong over the season. And that experience will surely come in handy as the team heads into the Ontario Cup quarter-finals. The Cup is open to teams of all leagues, meaning the Woolpack will have to rely only on skill and grit to reach the top.
“Right now we have upcoming the Ontario Cup, which we’ve gone through, and we’re playing Barrie Blue. And we hear they’re a very competitive team and a very strong team, so we’re looking forward to that,” said Kraja.
The Ottawa Showcase is being held next long weekend, from August 4 to 6. The week after, the girls will be heading to the Ontario Cup quarter-final game on August 11.