Ca­van FC off to Provin­cial Elite League af­ter un­beaten sea­son

Team fin­ishes first in Provin­cial East di­vi­sion af­ter play­ers step it up

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - MIKE DAVIES EX­AM­INER SPORTS DI­REC­TOR mike.davies @pe­ter­bor­ough­daily.com

When Ca­van FC fielded its first men’s team in 2017 the goal was to make it to the On­tario Soc­cer League’s Provin­cial Elite League in five years.

They’re ahead of sched­ule. In 2018 they won the OSL’s Cen­tral Re­gion East ti­tle to gain pro­mo­tion this year to the OSL’s Provin­cial East. With some key ad­di­tions, they were more than ready for the step up in cal­i­bre. Ca­van posted an un­de­feated sea­son — 12 wins, one tie — to clinch first place and pro­mo­tion in 2020 to the Provin­cial Elite.

“It was shock­ing to all of us,” said Ca­van FC cap­tain Mark VanBeek.

“We knew we had a chal­lenge ahead of us and we were up for the chal­lenge, but we didn’t think it would go the way it went. It was one of those sto­ries where ev­ery­thing went well for us this year.

“We started train­ing early and we had a good turnout and ev­ery­one was com­mit­ted to build­ing the team, es­pe­cially af­ter a pos­i­tive year like last year where we showed every­body what we’re all about. That Peter­bor­ough isn’t just farm­ers. We ac­tu­ally have some skill and tal­ent that is hid­den away.”

“I knew we could com­pete and I thought we’d stay up,” said head coach Alex Penello, “but didn’t think we’d have as stel­lar a year as we had. The boys were re­ally com­mit­ted. Very ded­i­cated to the game. I’ve known th­ese boys since they were 10 or 12 years old. The thing is they’re friends, too, and they’re real com­peti­tors.”

The team is a com­bi­na­tion of three age groups.

The foun­da­tion is a group of 1998-born play­ers Penello’s youngest son Michael played with who he coached to suc­cess all through youth soc­cer. The group in­cluded keeper Jared Foxon, Mitchell Cum­mings and Seth Ma­habir, among oth­ers.

When they reached se­nior age, Penello de­cided to field Ca­van’s first men’s side re­al­iz­ing they were too young to be com­pet­i­tive with­out some vet­eran help.

He brought back older play­ers he coached in pre­vi­ous years as youths at Ca­van and Peter­bor­ough City in­clud­ing a group of 1988s like VanBeek, Bran­don Bigelow and his son Matthew Penello.

“They’ve been bud­dies since they were, in Bran­don and Matt’s case, five years old,” said Alex Penello. “Mark moved into this area when he was 11 or 12.”

The next group was the 1994 play­ers who played with his sons Joey and Josh, a 1995 who played up a year, like Ge­orge Gill and Shaun Lau­zon.

They fin­ished sec­ond in their in­au­gu­ral sea­son in the re­gional league be­fore win­ning it and the Frank Docherty Cup last sea­son.

Mov­ing up to the provin­cial league they re­cruited two new starters from Kingston — Joey Pi­neo and Jean-Michel Poulin.

“We were for­tu­nate to get th­ese two guys,” Penello said.

He says they’ll need a few more re­cruits next year but he’s con­fi­dent they can com­pete in the OSL’s top league.

“I don’t think we’ll be de­moted. We do have cer­tain ar­eas we need to strengthen, that’s nor­mal, but we’ll do well. The cal­i­bre of soc­cer is en­joy­able to watch and we are start­ing to de­velop a fol­low­ing,” he said.

VanBeek played eight years in the elite league where he won a scor­ing ti­tle and cham­pi­onships with Durham Celtic and Ul­ster This­tle. He’s con­fi­dent Ca­van can have suc­cess right away.

“It will be a long sea­son next year with 18 games start­ing in the spring, so you have to have depth,” VanBeek said. “We’re go­ing to gain that when we move up and the word gets around that Peter­bor­ough ac­tu­ally has a team in the elite league, which is un­heard of, re­ally. We’re a city of 60,000 to 70,000 and we’re go­ing against the GTA. If we can amal­ga­mate all the play­ers from Peter­bor­ough, the Kawarthas, Durham to come play with us, we’ll have that.”

Also im­por­tant is a team-first dy­namic which is one of their strengths.

“We are ex­actly what the essence of a team is,” VanBeek said. “We care about each other and want to do well and have the same goals.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

In 2018 Ca­van FC won the On­tario Soc­cer League’s Cen­tral Re­gion East ti­tle to gain pro­mo­tion this year to the OSL’s Provin­cial East. With some key ad­di­tions, they were more than ready for the step up in cal­i­bre. Ca­van posted an un­de­feated sea­son — 12 wins, one tie — to clinch first place and pro­mo­tion in 2020 to the Provin­cial Elite.

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