Rookie-laden West­ern Wolves hunt­ing down what it takes to win on the pitch

The Western Star - - SPORTS - GARY KEAN [email protected]­ern­ Twit­ter: WS_GaryKean

They’ve only played two games, but “Mon­ster Truck” is prov­ing he’s a force to be reck­oned with.

Gavin Luther is one of 13 rook­ies suit­ing up for the West­ern Wolves soccer team, based out of Cor­ner Brook, which be­gan play in the New­found­land and Labrador Soccer As­so­ci­a­tion’s un­der-13 boys’ Premier Youth League last week­end.

With only four re­turn­ing play­ers, the Wolves are re­build­ing, and it’s go­ing to take a team ef­fort to do well.

For Luther and the other rook­ies, this is the first time they’ve played com­pet­i­tive soccer on a full field with 11 play­ers aside, grad­u­at­ing from play­ing seven-aside on half the field last year.

Coach Tracey Drover took no­tice of Luther’s agility, speed and rel­a­tive size a cou­ple of years ago. Last sum­mer, she urged him to play in the non­com­pet­i­tive provin­cial U-12 mega tour­na­ment.

It was there, she noted, that his prow­ess as a cen­tral de­fender be­gan to shine and was where his strength in that po­si­tion earned the nickname “Mon­ster Truck.”

“He’s kind of hard to beat on that de­fen­sive line,” Drover said of Luther’s nickname. “His tim­ing and ac­cu­racy are re­ally good for such a young age and he knows when to step in and get his foot on the ball.”

Now, Drover hopes her scout­ing instincts will pay off with Luther play­ing a key role for the Wolves.

“Gavin has re­ally quickly taken to that role as a cen­tral de­fender and owning that space and lead­ing the boys out the back,” she said.

Luther wel­comes learn­ing the more ad­vanced as­pects of the game, in­clud­ing the need for ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween team­mates as they try to get the ball into the of­fen­sive end of the field and keep it there.

“There’s a lot more run­ning and a lot more strat­egy,” he said. “In un­der-12, it’s just pass it up, but you can’t re­ally just do that any­more be­cause the other team will just take it. Some­times you have to pass it back.”

The team lost its first two matches at home to Fiel­dians, one of the stronger teams in the six-team provin­cial setup. They lost 4-1 in their sea­son opener June 1 and fell 4-3 the next day, de­spite mount­ing a come­back from a 4-1 deficit at half­time and nearly ty­ing the game in the dy­ing min­utes.

“They had a pretty good team and have had a lot of prac­tice,” Luther said of their first op­po­nent of the sea­son.

Drover was happy to see the team rally in the sec­ond half of their sec­ond game and show some grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion un­til the fi­nal whis­tle. She is hop­ing they can learn to be a lit­tle more as­sertive when it comes to gain­ing and main­tain­ing con­trol of the play as the sea­son goes on.

The team played a prac­tice game in Deer Lake this past week­end. The Wolves next test in the provin­cial league will be on the road this week­end for three matches. They play Mount Pearl on Fri­day, take on St. John’s on Satur­day and Con­cep­tion Bay South on Sun­day.

“The goal is to get bet­ter as we go,” said Luther. “We’ll keep on prac­tis­ing and hope­fully we can get a win. It’s go­ing to be sweet to get that first one.”

The Wolves won’t play their next home game un­til the week­end of July 13-14 when they host Par­adise.

Gavin Luther of Cor­ner Brook is a cen­tral de­fender with the West­ern Wolves soccer team com­pet­ing in the provin­cial U-13 Boys Premier Youth League this sea­son.

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