MAPLE RIDGE – After a torrid schedule crammed into 16 days, there will be no playoff soccer this year for any of the North Dundas District High School (NDDHS) squads.
The junior boys and girls teams had a tough time finding the back of the net and instead looked at building towards the future while the senior Devils were left wondering “what if” after a few crucial potential victories ended in a draws leaving them on the outside looking in.
Coached by Kelly Durant, the girls junior team finished off a tough season with losses to La Citadelle, Glengarry and Tagwi. Despite the winless season, Durant admired the girls’ attitude and work ethic no matter the results.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have a taste of victory this season, but the kids have remained very upbeat, very positive and very gung-ho about just coming out and playing soccer. That’s the number one biggest positive that I see that through all of this: they’ve kept their spirit, positive attitude and their desire to come out and play and have some fun,” she said.
A lack of practice time was a challenge for Durant and her squad, but she did notice some improvement in the fundamentals of their game.
“Definitely seeing some improvement. Working at eliminating time and space, and being first to the ball. Even though the scoreboard doesn’t show it, the girls are definitely doing more of that,” she said. “We’ve only had about two practices where everyone has been able to turn out. So that makes a big difference. You can’t just go game to game and expect to see a whole bunch of improvement.”
The final week of the season saw the junior Devils face some stiff competition. They began the week with 10-0 thumping at the hands of La Citadelle Tues., May 15. According to coach Kevin Bell, the La Citadelle attack was relentless.
“They pounded us. They just kept coming in waves. They schooled us. We didn’t keep our shape very well. We would get chances or opportunities to press and unfortunately the guys would get excited, and all the midfielders would move up in a line with the strikers and all they had to do was clear the first wave and attack,” he said.
With a chance to make some adjustments and apply the lessons learned in a heavy loss, NDDHS had a much different result in the second game of the day with a 4-1 victory, their first of the season, over St. Lawrence High School.
“The second game they started to buy into [keeping a shape] a little bit more. It made a huge difference in the game,” said Bell.
Curtis Bowman had a goal while Curtis Bell had a pair for the Devils.
The final two games of the season would see the Devils take on the perennial powerhouse Glengarry and a very strong Tagwi team. To compound the challenge, Bell only had one sub at his disposal for both games and an injury reduced that number to zero by the end of the day.
“When you’re missing that many midfielders, that’s where you win or lose games in the midfield position. Everyone in soccer knows that. We didn’t have the bodies on the bench. We had one sub for the first game and no subs the second game,” said Bell.
The result was a 7-0 loss to a skilled Tagwi team that moved the ball very well.
Despite the loss and being shorthanded, the junior Devils managed to hold their own in the first half against an always imposing Glengarry side.
“Our guys, in the first half, played really, really well. We held them scoreless until about 10 minutes left in the half. They scored another one late to make it 2-0 but the guys played physical and closed the gaps really well. We just didn’t have any legs. The ref was nice and called a 15-minute water break to at least give us an opportunity to get a minute of rest. There were guys who weren’t used to playing that length of time,” said Bell. “I give the guys credit. They stuck in there and never quit even though they could have easily. Glengarry is a really strong team.”
The game ended with a 5-0 score in favour of Glengarry.
The senior Devils needed a pair of victories to have any hope of making the playoffs in the final two games of the season against CCVS and L’Heritage.
They got off on the right foot with a tidy 4-1 win over CCVS. Joseph Seguin put the Devils up 1-0 only 30 seconds into the game with a tic-tac-toe play. Scoring leader Peter Xidias scored another pair of goals and Seguin added another to seal the victory for the Devils.
Needing a victory in their final outing, the Devils jumped out to 2-0 first half lead with markers from Xidias and Michael McIntosh only to watch it evaporate late in the second half. The game ended in a 2-2 draw eliminating the Devils from the playoffs.
“It was heartbreaking. We pressed, we came close, but we just couldn’t break the game,” said coach Kevin Bell.
The draw marked the latest tie snatched from the jaws of victory by the Devils but it wasn’t from a lack of effort.
“It was disappointing with the seniors this year, not making the playoffs. We had so many close games,” said Bell. “The guys played really hard and never got blown out in a game. If some of those ties could have been wins, we’d be in the playoffs. The boys are disappointed. They bought in and started in early March working out and stuff. They’re a great group of guys to coach.”
Even though the end result wasn’t what the boys or Bell wanted, another year of experience, more practice time and some more bodies will go a long way to helping the Devils remain competitive next year.
“I loved it even though it was a lot of games. I wish we had more practice time with both [junior and senior] teams,” said Bell. “The seniors were a very good defensive squad. Again, it comes down to legs. You’re playing with two or three subs and most teams are playing with five, six or even seven subs. They’re a fine group of athletes. You try to make them into soccer players as best as you can.”