Road trav­eled makes ERSL ti­tle sweeter for Hor­nets

Orleans Star - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Plouffe daniel.plouffe@transcontinental.ca

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.”

Photo supplied

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

re­gional league.

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