Monday, September 16, 2002

Blitz airlift reels in Ontario Cup title

Monday, September 16, 2002
By KATHY RUMLESKI, Free Press Sports Reporter VAUGHAN

It took a lot of co-ordination and a bit of cash but having four soccer players flown in from Nova Scotia for the Ontario Cup paid off. The London United Blitz under-19 girls won the Cup yesterday 3-0 over the Gloucester Hornets at Vaughan Grove Sports Park. It's the first win in the 27-year history of Cup play in the division for a London team. "This is a memory I'm going to hold dear, for sure," said elated London United coach Aaron Lauterbach. "It's real sentimental." Lauterbach said it would have been a different outcome had the four players -- two attending Dalhousie and two from Acadia -- not been able to fly to Toronto. Flight attendant Wendy Saint, mother of player Lindsey Boland who is studying at Acadia, made arrangements and got the flights for a total $800. Canada Post paid $500. Lauterbach also had to make arrangements with the university coaches so the girls -- including Jennifer Dewit and Angela Donato (Dalhousie) and Brianna Lyttle (Acadia) -- could return. "I talked to their coaches and they all had games today. All of the coaches thought it was a great idea that they finish their amateur career off with an Ontario Cup," he said. Elaine O'Connell also came from the University of Windsor for the game. Lyttle said the quick trip "was definitely worth it." Natalie Strittmatter got London on the board in the 17th minute. She blasted the ball high into the left corner of the net from about 15 yards out. The play started on a throw-in from Emma O'Connor and then Stephanie Elgie sent the ball in to the quick Strittmatter, who got the shot away. Prior to confirming his players would return from university, Lauterbach had said there were a couple of younger players who could "step it up in the big game." Two who responded were Kristin Brunner and Stephanie Miletic. Brunner was called up from the under-16 London United team and scored the second goal in the 37th minute. Elgie scored the third. With a defender on her, Brunner got a shot away that goalkeeper Tara Morrison initially stopped but it slid through her hands. The other key 16-year-old -- playing in only her second game with the team -- was goalkeeper Miletic. She was called on when regulars Kristy Zimmerman and Sarah McGill were out with a knee problem and concussion, respectively. The rookie keeper made two outstanding saves -- one on a breakaway -- that gave London back the momentum when Gloucester had it. "It's a very great honour to be called up to this team," said Miletic, 16, of St. Marys. The Blitz, most of whom have only played together this season, were plagued by injuries throughout the year. Key player Cassandra VanLeuwen broke her leg but wanted to participate in the Ontario Cup so badly she worked hard in therapy and is now eight months ahead of schedule in terms of her recovery, Lauterbach said. But it wasn't enough to get her into the game yesterday. VanLeuwen had an important role, though. "She's an inspiration," Lauterbach said. "We wanted her on the bench. "The team really rallied around each other; they really played for one another. The true epitome of what a team's all about.

London feasts in Ontario Cup

Monday, September 16, 2002

London Portuguese men's team was the third local team to win yesterday.
By KATHY RUMLESKI, Free Press Sports Reporter VAUGHAN -- After almost a decade of disappointment, the London Portuguese men's team kissed the elusive Ontario Cup for the first time. It was a joyous celebration on a rain-drenched field last night with hugs, tears, kisses and a few expletives to accentuate how gratified they felt. The club defeated North York Carolea Azzurri 3-1 at Vaughan Grove Sports Park. "This is what we've been working for . . . all of our lives basically," said an emotional Carlos Miranda, manager of London Portuguese. "This is the best feeling ever, other than the birth of my kids and getting married." The men's win capped off a feast of Ontario Cups for London soccer teams. The six Cups won by London teams came in a record year when 663 squads from across the province started out in Cup play. London United Blitz under-19 girls and North London Shooting Stars under-17 girls also won yesterday. London Forest United Flames under-13 girls and North London Dynamite under-13 boys took titles Saturday. London Supernova under-12 girls won last week. London joins Scarborough as the only other city known to win six provincial club championships in one year. Scarborough did it in 1994. The win means the Portuguese club will represent Ontario in the national championship in mid-October in St. John's, Nfld. "Hopefully . . . we can go into the nationals healthy . . . and represent Ontario well and maybe win the nationals," said Miranda, now a believer in dreams coming true. Portuguese endured injuries, upsets and personal setbacks but fought on to accomplish the dream, he said. On the eve of the final, London player Paul Ferreira's grandmother suffered a seizure and was in hospital and Ferreira didn't think he'd be able to play. "He comes out here and he plays an amazing game," Miranda said. "It shows you the heart and soul of this team." Ermal Murataj scored the winner in the first half during injury time and Portuguese went into the half up 2-1. Phil Pacheco scored London's first goal at the 11-minute mark. Because many of the Portuguese players have been together since they were in their early teens, they play like a symphony for the eyes. Ree San, who has been dynamite for London in the Cup run, scored the third goal off a perfect cross from Steve Maio. "It's our third time in five years (in the final)," San said. "I don't think there's any other team that deserves it more than us right now." In 2000, London lost 3-0 to Woodbridge Azzurri and in 1998 the team lost 2-0 to the Hamilton Serbians. North York scored its only goal on keeper Paul Azevedo just into the second half when Robert Rupf knocked in a corner kick. Moments later Azzurri player Christian Zorzi was ejected from the game for his second yellow card. Being down a goal and a man was too much for North York to overcome. "What it comes to is hard work," Azevedo summed up. "There were 5 a.m. practices that we went through." It was all worthwhile, he said, with the Cup win. The championship has been contested in the men's division since 1901 and London has won it three times. The other two men's teams to win were both from the Marconi club -- in 1966 and 1978.

Friday, September 06, 2002

London's Ontario Cup runneth over

By KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

Four Ontario Cup titles in one year is a pretty remarkable feat for one city. Last year, the North London Rockets under-13 girls, the Forest United under-18 girls, Sport London Benfica under-17 boys (Tier 2) and the North London under-12 girls all won the coveted championship. Beginning tomorrow and running through the next two weekends at the Vaughan Grove Soccer Fields, eight London teams will be trying to improve on that number. They advanced to their finals during a record Ontario Cup year in which 663 teams entered the draw. The record for a district association is seven Cup titles, attained by Peel-Halton in 1995 and 2000. But the Peel-Halton district includes the cities of Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and Brampton. Robyn McComb, competitions and events manager for the Ontario Soccer Association, which runs Cup play, called London's representation "significant." "It's a big achievement for any district association," she said. One of the interesting stories of this year's Cup quest is that a father and son have led separate London teams to finals. Geoff Painter made history two years ago when his North London under-15 Shooting Stars won London's first girls' national club championship after winning the Ontario Cup in 2000. Painter's North London under-12 girls will try to give him another Ontario Cup on Sunday. Painter's son, Martin, has marched his North London under-13 boys' team into the final next Saturday. There's also one coach with two teams in the finals. Antony Camacho, who won an Ontario Cup last year with the under-18 girls, will attempt to win two Cups this season in under-18 and under-13 girls action. "I feel great, especially for the under-18 girls," Camacho said. "Nobody gave us a chance to get back there. But the work is not done."

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Henderson event satisfies almost everyone

By KATHY RUMLESKI, Free Press Sports Reporter

At the one end of the expansive set of fields at the London Psychiatric Hospital site, a team of under-10 girls and their fans were screaming in delight yesterday, giddy with positive emotion. The Mississauga Falcons had just won their division of the Henderson soccer tournament in a shootout. Moments later, at the other end, a man was screaming at a volunteer, his anger incontrovertible, because he disputed a ruling about yellow cards that had been handed out to one of his players. Welcome to a kids' soccer tournament. "You have to expect it," tournament chairperson Laurie Workman said as she radioed a police officer to come over just to make sure the man's verbal assaults didn't go any further. It's the old adage: you can't please everyone. Especially when there are 3,000 kids and their parents involved. "There's not a lot of people leaving unhappy," Workman pointed out. "It's been a really good tournament." Workman said she could have used more volunteers -- especially on the final day when she only had five to start. And she wished the grass was greener. But Workman said the tournament, for players under-9 to under-19, ran smoothly and she's hoping it will bring in more than $25,000 for the London United club, the host of the event. "This is our major fundraiser," she said. "We hope we're getting bigger and better each year." The money raised pays for such things as leasing and maintaining the fields, equipment and uniforms. So the 25th annual three-day tournament concluded yesterday with most people taking away positive memories. "We'll be back next year," promised the Mississauga under-10 girls' coach, Fred Stradiotto. "We enjoy it."

London sides fulfil dreams of Disney trip

Tuesday, September 3, 2002
By KATHY RUMLESKI, Free Press Sports Reporter

Disney World is about dreaming and wishing upon stars and ultimately making kids smile. So with a shot at going to this magical place, North London under-11 boys head coach Joe Skufca got his soccer team to start believing it could win when it entered the 25th annual Henderson Memorial soccer tournament this weekend. The result was a 4-0 win in the final yesterday over the Toronto Eagles. For the first time this year, the Henderson has been designated as one of 10 SuperClubs regional qualifying tournaments in North America. "For sure it's a great motivator for the kids," Skufca said. "It creates a lot of dreaming for the kids." The top two teams in each Henderson division can play at the SuperClubs Orlando championship, held at Disney's Wide World of Sports each July. Skufca's team, which has won four tournaments, also won a SuperClubs qualifier in Vaughan earlier this summer. The team can now defer acceptance into the Orlando event for a year, Skufca said. Scoring for North London in the final were Ben O'Quinn, with two, Josh Geer and Dean Zapishny. Andros Agathos recorded the shutout. Skufca's assistant coach Chris Korakianitis worked some magic of his own yesterday. He also coaches the London United under-15 boys, who came back from a 3-0 halftime deficit to beat Brampton 4-3 in the final. "I never game up on them," Korakianitis said. "(I said), 'Believe in yourselves.' " Scoring for London United were Carlo D'Emilio, Paul Popala, Matt Travato and Mark Pocrnic. Aldo Caranci, a London United volunteer who worked to get the Henderson SuperClub status, said people were talking about the opportunity. "Everyone's kind of excited," he said. "We're hoping somebody takes advantage of that and goes. There's a lot of good teams that won." The Forest United under-18 girls weren't thinking about Disney World yesterday. They wanted to win the Henderson tournament and then the Ontario Cup title. The first part was accomplished -- although it wasn't easy -- with a 2-1 overtime win over Windsor Caboto in the under-19 division. Now it's on to the Ontario Cup final Sunday against the Burlington Flames. "We always try to get in a tournament the week before (the Ontario Cup)," said Forest United coach Anthony Camacho. "We try to get prepared a little bit and keep your fingers crossed hoping there isn't any injuries." Anna Chudyk scored the winner four minutes into the second overtime. Janice Harkins scored the first goal for Forest United and 14-year-old Cheryl Beishuizen played a great game in net. "We knew if we played hard and played as a team that we should come out victorious," said Harkins, 17. Another London Ontario Cup finalist to win its division yesterday was the North London Supernova under-12 girls team.