Road traveled makes ERSL title sweeter for Hornets
Two years ago, the Gloucester Hornets boys who recently captured the East Region Soccer League’s under-17 Level 3 title found themselves at a crossroads.
After a season where they suffered multiple injuries and plenty of plain old bad luck, the talented squad was relegated from the Level 3 regional level due to its seventh place finish.
“At that time, many players questioned their future on this team,” Hornets coach Jean Lepage explains by e-mail, noting that an end-of-season meeting with open dialogue was when the players chose to continue together as a group and work their way back up. “Fourteen boys decided that the camaraderie that existed and the new challenge they faced was tempting and worth the long-term effort.”
The Hornets completed the first step in their journey perfectly with an undefeated Level 4 season last year to earn a promotion back into the Level 3 loop.
And the upswing continued without a hitch this year as Gloucester faced better competition in the higher category. The Hornets got things rolling with a few exhibition victories over men’s clubs as well as winning their third consecutive division title at the Gloucester International Soccer Tournament early in the season.
Success followed in league play as they cruised to the big prize with an undefeated record of eight wins and four ties, allowing just six goals against all season long – the second best defensive total out of all ERSL squads at any level (almost 200 teams in total).
While the championship is certainly treasured on its own, Lepage believes the road they took to win it is what made the title particularly rewarding for the Hornets.
“I am enormously delighted with this group,” Lepage beams. “I love this story because the boys chose to stick together – they demonstrated that commitment, perseverance, dedication, discipline and diligence are not abstract concepts.”
Lepage plans to meet with team members soon to discuss whether they’ll accept their invitation to join the Level 1 Ontario Youth Soccer League next season, which was granted to the club thanks to the league championship.
Most of the players are excited about potentially playing in the province’s top league, but finances may be challenging for some players as they prepare to attend post-secondary schools, he indicates.
“We would need an imaginative plan to raise funds in addition to substantial contributions from the business community to participate in the OYSL,” Lepage says. “There is no doubt that very good players from other teams could fill in, however, the OYSL goal is attractive only if the present members are the huge majority after the final selections.”
The Gloucester Hornets under-17 boys earned an undefeated record and an Eastern Ontario Soccer League Level 3 title this season – just two years after the squad was relegated from the same