THRILL FOR JILL AS SHE LANDS D1 CONTRACT

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY...mum Andrea, long time Nitros manager, and dad Bill, a respected Nitros coach, share in Jill's big signing day moment at the club

JILL SUTHERLAND’S soccer journey started as an Under-8s Nitros girl at Eglinton Park, yesterday she stepped into the big leagues when she signed for Division I Central Michigan Chippewas.

The move sees central defender Jill become the first Nitros player to graduate to the elite level of America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) system.

Jill put pen to paper on the University of Central Michigan contract in the club offices under the watchful eyes of proud coaches Marc Maunder and Chris Vickers who have played key roles in her development.

And as she prepared for a landmark moment in her soccer career Jill smiled: “My earliest Nitros memory is playing for the Under-8s side at Eglinton Park.

“Sonia Booker was my coach and my dad Bill, who has always been involved as a coach with the club, was there and involved too.

“My over-riding feeling was that I had so much fun and I felt like I belonged and that has never left me with this club.

“I will always look to the impact that my Nitros coaches have had on me and I want to dedicate this to them. All of my team-mates have backed me so much too.”

The Chippewas play in the Mid-American Conference and the University is set in the picturesque town of Mount Pleasant.

Jill told ntsoccer.com she felt at home there from the first moment she arrived.

And she confessed: “I’’m so excited, it’s such a beautiful place and I am being honest when I say the school felt like home right away.

“It was like with the team too, I felt at home, my team-mates have been so welcoming and I can’t wait to get started.

“I’m proud that I have made a Division I team and it feels like a dream because it is so difficult to get there, it’s so competitive.

“You go through moments where you think it might not happen for you but if you keep working hard the rewards come.”

Yesterday Jill’s proud parents Bill and Andrea were in the club offices to share that special signing moment with their daughter and the coaches who helped make it happen.

The gifted defender moves on to the next chapter now but she admits there will always be a backward glance towards a club and the people within it who have come to mean so much to her over the last decade.

Jill revealed: “My team-mates were really happy for me, we are all heading on different journeys now but we are all delighted for each other.

“That sense of togetherness is I think what makes NT such a special club, it really is like a family.”

The regime of playing in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL), training four times a week and playing her game has prepared Jill well for what lies ahead.

She knows only too well the dedication needed to keep improving as a player, the relentless will to get better every day.

That is reflected in how a typical week will look playing for the Chippewas and she reflected: “We train in the mornings and and we are in the weight room or doing strength and conditioning twice a week also.

“Games are on Fridays and Sundays with a recovery session on a Saturday and I think we get the Monday off to chill out!

“Seriously, it is like living the life of professional soccer player and that for me is something to cherish and relish. It’s super-exciting.”

Away from the field, Jill’s hard work at school means she can assess her options before deciding what direction she wants to take in the classroom. It’s about striking the right balance now between the books and the tactics board.

Jill said: “I think I want to study Communications right now and the school is academically excellent.

“I just want to advance my learning both on and off the field.”

Jill was one of eight new recruits for the Chippewas on signing day and after a heartbreaking end to last season this is a team on a mission.

Everyone at NT will now be following Central Michigan’s fortunes when the action kicks off.

Jill reflected: “This time round the team didn’t make the play-off tournament.

“They went into the last game as a decider and lost it in overtime so they will go into next season with a big target.

“They will want to right that wrong and I want to be a part of that.”

In Part Two of The Graduate: The Jill Sutherland Interview we discover how she recovered from a series of setbacks to become Nitros first NCAA Division One player. Watch out for that on ntsoccer.com next week.


06 GIRLS ON A LEARNING CURVE IN THE STATES

READY FOR THE OPDL...the 06 Girls squad racked up some vital 11-a-side minutes in the Bethesda tournament

NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ 06 OPDL girls soaked up a vital learning experience in their first major 11-a-side tournament at the Bethesda Premier Cup.

The OPDL newbies, with just five full field games under their belts prior to this trip, were delighted to be placed in this prestigious tournament’s top bracket after excellent displays in both the Hershey League and the TSA over the last year.

They would lose all three games Stateside narrowly but Head Coach Iain King insisted his U13 tream will benefit greatly from a trip taken just six weeks into their life as an OPDL squad.

Saturday saw the girls tackle Loudoun SC - ranked no62 in the USA - and they were edged out 1-0 in a tight match that had seen them outshine their highly-ranked rivals in the first-half.

Coach Iain reflected: “I was very proud of our effort and technique in that game, it was decided on the finest of margins.

“Overall, over the weekend we learned so much from the ramping up in physicality and the speed of play.

“We competed extremely well against some of the best teams in the States but we know now the areas we have to improve upon.”

In Game Two of their three-team section Nitros were a goal down to a penalty-kick and pressing hard for the equaliser against PA Nova Classic of Pennsylvania when they were sucker-punched with a class strike from 25 yards into the top corner.

The girls rested up at their base in Tyson’s Corner on the Saturday night and had a blast bonding as a team.

And coach Iain stressed: “That gives you a sense of perspective as a coach.

“Sure, we were disappointed we lost on the field as it is not a feeling we are used to but we went there to play the best teams.

“I sat and looked at how much the team were enjoying just eating and being together in the hotel and shrugged off that feeling.”

The sodden conditions in Maryland meant that Game Three was cut to 30 minutes on the Sunday and Nitros were again dominating the early stages when they got caught on a counter-attack to fall behind against Global Premier Soccer Maine.

Another penalty-kick sealed a 2-0 reverse and meant the team came away a little disappointed in themselves but vowing to learn from the experience.

Coach Iain said: “When the news came we were in the top bracket I know there was some trepidation about how we would cope.

“Yet we were right in every game we played, we just suffered from some naive moments and we had slices of ill luck at key times.

“This group has improved so much over the last 14 months together and I am confident that will be a competitive squad when the OPDL rolls around in May 2019.

“It certainly hasn’t put us off travelling again, we have benefitted so much from the experiences in Ottawa and Bethesda this season.”


SONIA'S WORLD CUP DREAM COMES TRUE!

NORTH TORONTO NITROS' bred star Sonia Walk has realised her dream of making the Canada squad for the U17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay next month.

Gifted Sonia is part of coach Rhian Wilkinson's 21-player squad for the tournament which begins on November 13 with the Final scheduled for December 1.

Canada have been drawn in Group D of the prestigious tournament and will face Colombia, South Korea and Spain at Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo.

The Maple Leaf girls' first game is against Colombia on November 14  at 19:00 local (18:00 ET/15:00 PT), followed by Korea Republic on November 17 at 16:00 local (15:00 ET/12:00 PT), and Spain on November 21 at 14:00 local (13:00 ET/10:00 PT.

Here at ntsoccer.com we are very proud of Sonia's achievements and she is featured in a special two-part interview in this section of the club website where she pays tribute to the role her NT mentor Marko Milanovic played in her development as a player.

And Sonia reflected: “I came to Nitros at Under-9 and Marko has been my coach since then, he has been a huge influence on me. He taught me the basics of how to pass a soccer ball and he has such an attention to detail and an intensity when you work with him.

“I have come to progress to first the Provincial and now National squads through working under Marko. I feel that I owe both him and NT a huge debt. I recognise that and always will.”

Now Sonia is a key part of long-time women's national team player Wilkinson's squad for the big adventure in Uruguay.

And the Canada coach said: “I am really excited to have this opportunity for Canada Soccer, and I value the experience just like I did every time I pulled on that jersey with the Maple Leaf.

"I really believe in this U-17 team and I am looking forward to working with them to help them both perform on the pitch and learn from the experience to better prepare them for a career with Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team.”

Sonia's rise is part of the growing excellence of the female program at Nitros that sees the club at the top of the province at U15, U17 and U21 level.

On Saturday her former team-mates take part in the Charity Shield Final against Richmond Hill as coach Marko continues to drive his squad towards more silverware.

Sonia is part of the Regional Excellence program (REX) alongside fellow Nitros produced prospects Olivia Smith and Jasmine Vilgrain and Canada womens' national team boss Kenneth Heiner-Moller believes they are in the best place to progress.

“We are excited for the team and Rhian,” said Heiner-Moller who is also Women’s EXCEL Program Director.

“Canada Soccer’s focus for our young players continues to be on development through experience. Our nationally aligned talent development system ensures a progression for players towards the Women’s National Team and the top level of women’s soccer.”

Canada Soccer Roster for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018 (By number, position, name, year born, hometown, club)

#1 Goalkeeper Anna Karpenko, 2002, Richmond Hill, ON/Ontario REX
#2 Forward Jayde Riviere, 2001, Markham, ON/Ontario REX
#3 Defender Julianne Vallerand, 2001, Terrebonne, QC /Quebec REX & AS Varennes
#4 Defender Sonia Walk, 2002, Toronto, ON/Ontario REX
#5 Defender Maya Antoine, 2001, Vaughan, ON/Ontario REX
#6 Defender Ariel Young, 2001, Ottawa, ON/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#7 Forward Serita Thurton, 2002, Ajax, ON/Ontario REX
#8 Midfielder Caitlin Shaw, 2001, Vancouver, BC/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#9 Forward Jordyn Huitema, 2001, Chilliwack, BC/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#10 Forward Oluwateniola (Teni) Akindoju, 2001, Halifax, NS/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#11 Forward Kaila Novak, 2002, St. Thomas, ON/Ontario REX
#12 Midfielder Lara Kazandjian, 2002, Kirkland, QC/Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#13 Defender Léonie Portelance, 2001, Brossard, QC/ Quebec REX & AS Varennes
#14 Midfielder Wayny-Natasha Balata Nguenign, 2001, Montreal, QC/ Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#15 Midfielder Jazmine Wilkinson, 2002, Nanaimo, BC /Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#16 Defender Jade Rose, 2003, Markham, ON/Ontario REX
#17 Forward Andersen Williams, 2002, Calgary, AB/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#18 Goalkeeper Sophie Guilmette 2001, Montréal, QC /Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#19 Defender Isabella Hanisch, 2002, Ottawa, ON/ Ontario REX
#20 Forward Jessica De Filippo, 2001, Montréal, QC /Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#21 Goalkeeper Kayza Massey, 2001, Ottawa, ON/Ontario REX
 
* Squad details courtesy of canadasoccer.com


SONIA: MY DEBT TO MARKO AND NTSC

BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN...Sonia with coach Marko at Nitros Academy base at Sunnybrook last month

SONIA WALK dreams of striding into an arena in Uruguay in three months’ time and playing with pride for Canada in the Under-17 Womens World Cup.

If she does the holding midfielder raised as a player at North Toronto Nitros will send a message of thanks to the coaching mentor who has helped her start to scale the heights in The Beautiful Game.

Sonia recognises the debt she will always owe to Marko Milanovic.

We caught up with the Regional Excellence (REX) program player as she took time out of her hectic schedule and volunteered as one of the player coaches at Nitros Academy week at Sunnybrook Park last month.

The constant smile on her face told you how much Sonia enjoyed being back in the NT fold, sharing jokes with her former team-mates and laughing with her old coach Marko during breaks from the technical sessions.

Since moving to the club from East York as a rookie kid, she has been steeped in the Nitros culture.

And Sonia reflected: “I came to Nitros at Under-9 and Marko has been my coach since then, he has been a huge influence on me.

“He taught me the basics of how to pass a soccer ball and he has such an attention to detail and an intensity when you work with him.

“I have come to progress to first the Provincial and now National squads through working under Marko.

“I feel that I owe both him and NT a huge debt. I recognise that and always will.”

As Sonia developed as a player under Marko’s guidance the trophies and accolades - both personal and team - began to arrive.

OPDL titles, the growing recognition that she could now be on a pathway towards the national team.

Then last year Sonia and team-mates Olivia Smith and Jasmine Vilgrain were amongst the first intake of players selected for the Ontario REX program.

There they train five days a week with the province’s best players with the door open to the Canadian international team call-ups they all crave.

Sonia was a key part of the Under-17 squad who came through the CONCACAF qualifiers to propel the nation into that 16-team November adventure in South America.

Player of the Match in the opening 3-0 win over Bermuda, Sonia and her team-mates then went through the trauma of seeing the tournament scrapped because of rioting in the streets in Managua, Nicaragua where the event was being hosted.

The competition was moved to Bradenton, Florida and, although Team Canada lost narrowly to the USA, 2-1 wins over Costa Rica then Haiti secured third spot and that coveted place in Uruguay.

Now Sonia’s sights are on making the World Cup cut and she revealed: “We start our training in August and then come September they will announce the roster for Uruguay.

“It’s an exciting time for all three of the Nitros players who were originally selected for the REX program.

“Olivia is doing really well for the Under-15s and has her own World Cup to look forward to in August and Jasmine is progressing great now too.”

Throughout her Nitros days coach Marko would always marvel at the single-minded intensity Walk brought to her work with the team.

That dedication to being the best player she can be has been a vital competent in her continued career climb.

The REX program is demanding on the players and Sonia confessed: “It is intense as we train five days a week at 3.30pm in the afternoon.

“Some players go to Bill Crothers School, which has the link with the program, and then train but I still go to my own school so I Skype into team meetings in the morning then do my schoolwork.

“In the afternoon my dad Brian has rescheduled his work life as a physician to ensure he can drive me to every practice in the afternoons.

“I guess that’s the part that people don’t see, how dedicated your parents have to be.

“He has made so many sacrifices for me and he now starts his appointments at 7am to ensure he is free to to drive me to REX practice.”

All those family sacrifices will be worthwhile if Sonia’s journey continues towards the Canada WNT.

For now, though, the goals are winning a slot in that squad for Uruguay and continuing to adapt to her new role as a central defensive midfield player.

She explained: “I started off at centre-back when I was playing with Marko and from when I was 12 that’s really where I settled as a player.

“The Provincial program saw me in that position too and I guess in some ways I was in my comfort zone there.

“Then the national team coach Bev Priestman told me she saw me at CDM and I am adapting to that now.

“When I moved into the role at first I felt that everything was happening too fast around me.

“Even then I turned to Marko for some extra help and advice on the switch and some tips on what would be expected of me.

“I always know I can turn to him in situations like that. Like I say, I owe him. I will always know that.”

COMING SOON: Part Two of our Sonia Walk Interview sees the Canada U-17 look back at a dramatic CONCACAF qualifying campaign and forward to her dream of emulating her favourite players in the red of her country.


SONIA'S MOVIN' UP IN THE WORLD

CANADA EH! Sonia's team jump for joy after defeating Haiti to qualify for the World Cup Finals next month

 SONIA WALK glanced out of the Team Canada bus window and saw tyres burning on the side of the road.

The chants of angry protesters were a distant soundtrack in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua but Bev Priestman’s players would soon realise they were chasing their soccer dreams in a city teetering on the brink.

Sonia and her team-mates had jetted in to Nicaragua intent upon glory in the U17s CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

They knew if they shone a place in the World Cup in Uruguay next month beckoned.

For the holding midfielder bred at North Toronto Nitros this was the pinnacle of her career to date and she reflected: “Initially when we were in Managua we were assured that everything was fine and we would be OK during the tournament.

“We defeated Bermuda 3-0 in the opener. I got Player of the Match, which I was very proud of, and we were all deep into the competition.

“Then one morning I got a knock on my door from one of my team-mates and she told me there was an emergency meeting.”

Outside the hotel the civil unrest, sparked by students demanding that President Daniel Ortega stand down over pension cuts plans, was now making world headlines.

Rioters were moving perilously close to the hotels the visiting nations’ teams were staying in and FIFA acted swiftly.

Sonia revealed: “Coach Priestman stood up in front of us and told us the tournament was CANCELLED and we all went into a state of shock I think.

“She said the riots had become too dangerous and we were all heading home.

“It was dark when we were heading back to the hotel from the first game but we heard all the noises and we saw tyres burning at the side of the roads.

“You knew you were in the middle of something but we never expected that would be the end of the story.”

In the days that followed violence ruled the streets of Managua as those sympathetic to President Ortega vented their fury against the protesters.

Before calm was restored over 280 people died, Team Canada had flown out of what became a nightmarish city in the nick of time.

The tournament was rescheduled for Bradenton, Florida, and Sonia would be at heart of a magnificent effort that clinched a slot in Uruguay.

She said: “When all the trouble for the tournament came to a head in Nicaragua we had been gearing up to face Costa Rica.

 “We eventually played that Costa Rica game in Florida and won and then lost narrowly to the USA.

“Any defeat to the States is sore but we made it through to the World Cup Finals which are in Uruguay next month. That was our goal and we achieved it.”

There were joyous scenes when Andersen Williams’ goal sealed the 2-1 win over Haiti to secure that place in the Finals.

Now Sonia is desperate to make the squad as the U17s World Cup 2018 runs from November 13-December 1 in Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo, and Maldonado. Canada, Mexico, and USA will join 13 other nations in Uruguay.

This summer Walk came back to her roots at the Nitros Academy and was a volunteer coach looked up to by every player there - even her old OPDL-winning team-mates!

Modest Sonia would shrug off any talk that she is a role model to the aspiring Nitros, yet that is the status she now holds at the club where she was developed under the shrewd guidance of her coach and mentor Marko Milanovic.

Our last question as another day wound down at Academy in the early evening Sunnybrook Park sunshine was who SHE looked up to on the soccer field.

The answer began with a player who was just 15 when made her debut for the Canadian national team.

Sonia revealed:  “I really like both Jessie Fleming, who is such an exciting player, and she has achieved so much for someone who is still only 20.

 “Another player I admire is Desiree Scott who plays the position I have now transitioned to in central midfield from my Nitros days when I was a centre-half.

“I have found some of the technical aspects of moving to play in that position a challenge, Desiree makes it look easy.”

For the kid who first tugged a Nitros jersey on when she was nine years old a dream is beckoning.

Graduating from Nitros to the Regional Excellence Program was a significant step, making it into the national set-up even bigger.

To stride in the World Cup Finals in the red of Canada, though? Now that would be Walkin’ the Walk….


05 GIRLS WHITE TEAM FIT THE BILL

LEAVING THE OTHERS IN THE SHADE...coach Bill Sutherland with his league champions after the TSA triumph

NORTH TORONTO NITROS 05 Girls program has displayed its enviable strength in depth as the White Team posted a season to remember under the shrewd guidance of Head Coach Bill Sutherland.

The girls this summer roared through the entire Toronto Soccer Association league season UNDEFEATED as they charged to the title to gain promotion to the Central Soccer League next year.

And there were a host of other highlights in what became a memorable campaign that left coach Bill to reflect: 'It was I feel a great season of personal and team growth. It''s not an easy feat to go undefeated throughout a league season at any level.

"The girls set this goal for themselves with six games remaining in the season, full credit to them for seeing it through.”

This squad operates in an age group where the club has high hopes for coach Marc Maunders' OPDL team and the success of Bill's group shows the level of quality now being produced throughout the NT female program.

Coach Sutherland said: "The team now moves up to the CSL for the U14 season and are looking forward to the new challenge. Winning the league, finishing second at the Lake Simcoe tournament and getting out of the group stage of the Ontario Cup, these are are great experiences that the girls will take forward to the next level.

“The girls were an absolute pleasure to coach this season. Always positive and fun to work with. Very resilient when needed, they always tried to play with creativity and confidence.

"The majority of our players started many years ago with the club at the grassroots/ball mastery level with Marc. I am really very proud to see them develop and achieve their goals.”


04 GIRLS GIVE COACH SAM PERFECT FAREWELL

UP FOR THE CUP...parent coach John Shulman and coach Sam Fujimagari with their 2018 TDYSL Cup winners

NORTH TORONTO NITROS coach Samantha Fujimagari has paid tribute to her U14 Girls side after they won the Toronto District Youth Soccer League Cup and handed her the perfect farewell to four years in charge.

Sam’s star turns edged North York Cosmos 1-0 in the Final and it was an emotional day for both the players and their coach as she moves on to an exciting new post in our restructured Grassroots section.

That challenge sees Sam take over as Head Coach of the U8 Girls and assistant with the U9 and U10 Girls squads.

Sam moves on with the best of memories in her locker and she smiled: “I can’t begin to express how proud I am of these players.

“I’ve watched them grow up through the end of their elementary school days, past their middle school awkwardness and now as young women entering high school.

“It fills me with pride to watch them develop both on and off the field. I’ve grown to know and respect each one of them as individuals over the past four years and it was a bittersweet moment when the final whistle blew.

“When the TSA officials asked the coaches to say a few words, I had to ask our parent coach John Shulman to do it as I was holding back tears. 

“Watching the team raise the cup filled me with great joy but also heartache as the realisation of my departure sunk in.”

Sam, a graduate of York University with a BSc in Kinesiology, started out life at NT as a Development Coach and is a popular figure within the club.

This year she has also done stellar strength and conditioning and injury prevention work with coach Iain King’s 06 Girls squad as they prepare for life in the OPDL and CSL in 2019.

The 04 Girls, though, have been a constant in her NT coaching life over the last four years.

And she reflected: “We had both lost and won against North York in the regular season so we knew it was going to be a tough Final. 

“The goal came thanks to a foul on our striker, Sophie Tran-Chapman, Claire Alden scored directly from a free-kick outside the box. It was a picture perfect shot on target past the outstretched reach of the diving keeper. 

“Our keeper, Daniella Hervieux made some incredible saves to ensure a clean sheet. The win was fully a team effort.”

As we look forward to the Fall, winter and the 2019 season Sam passes the team on to former Nitros League One attacker Russell Rodriguez who is setting out on his learning pathway as a coach now.

He will be mentored as he grows into the role as part of the club’s new structured pathway and Sam stressed: “Russell is an enthusiastic up-and-coming coach.

“It will be awesome for the players to hear a fresh voice and I’m confident the players will continue to develop under his leadership. 

“John Shulman, our incredible parent assistant coach, was the magic ingredient to this year’s success.

“He brings laughter and passion to practices and matches. His positivity is contagious and the players grew so much thanks to him. 

“I will miss working with John, but mostly being around his charisma and joy.”

Inside the coaching room the technical staff feel that one of the strengths of the Nitros culture is the emotional investment the coaches have in the projects they take on with the teams.

They care about the PERSON not just the player and that is a key element for Sam as she looks back on her journey with the 04 Girls and forward to her new adventure with our developing talents.

She said: “Besides the overnight trips to various tournaments and the adventures that go along with that, I’ll treasure the off-field moments with these players that likely aren’t on anyone else’s highlight reel.

“Just watching them talk together, learning about each other’s lives and they way they set a culture of including everyone in the conversation. That’s rare among teenaged girls. 

“Watching friendships form and seeing players have one another’s backs both on and off the field are qualities of these players that I will remember. 

“I laugh when I think back to the team-bonding practices that I’d throw in just to give them opportunities to hang out and be goofy together.

“We have had balloon games, blind-folded games, survivor games. I just wish I had more video footage!”

Now coach Sam moves on to build another Nitros family in that key role with the U8, U9 and U10 Girls under the guidance of our new Manager of Grassroots Development Tom Waud.

When ntsoccer.com asked her what she will miss most about the 04 Girls group her answer was simple.

She said: “The players. I am so thankful for how they’ve challenged me to grow as a coach, a role model and a person.

“I will miss being around them, hearing about their day, what’s going on in their lives. I’ll miss the parent group and the Nitros family we’ve built over the past four years. 

“The team dinners, overnight trips, car rides. They made me feel like a part of their families.

“I will take those memories into my exciting new challenge with our younger players.”


PRIDE AS U21s MAKE IT A PROVINCIAL TREBLE

NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ U21 Womens Head Coach Chris Vickers has spoken of his pride after his side won the OWSL Provincial Division and clinched a dream Treble for the club.

After Provincial glory for both the U15s and U17s OPDL girls the success of their older club mates has capped an incredible summer of silverware for NT’s female program.

Chris’ side suffered just one loss in the league campaign and he stressed: “We now have the 15s, 17s and 21s as Provincial trophy holders which I think is great for the club to look back on in one season.

“We were also able to give OPDL players like Keyosha Donkor experience at the older level too which is another massive plus for the program.”

That cohesive thinking within the technical staff and linking of the pathway for the girls throughout their journey with the Nitros has proven to be hugely successful over the last few years.

Chris’ colleagues Marko Milanovic and Marc Maunder have also done sterling work with their leading OPDL sides.

Chris told ntsoccer.com:  “We see this as a University prep team and they went through their league season with just that one loss at the Provincial level and showed great togetherness.

“The regional side finished second in their league too and that should be enough for promotion so the picture is good there too.

“The team who won Provincial have been brilliant for us because we are a younger squad than a lot of those we compete against.”

For some of the squad this may be their farewell to Nitros for now as they head off the University and the next stage of their soccer journeys.

Yet the grounding they have had at the club has given them the foundations to make some exciting steps in their careers.

Chris reflected: “As a squad they have been fantastic to work with and many of them now will be making their way to colleges and universities in Canada and the USA.

“Kiva Badoir our centre-back also clinched a training stint with pro side FC Twente Enschede in Holland.

“We also had our Golden Glove winner Stephania Turik make the journey to England and train with both Charlton Athletic and Millwall Lionesses and that shows you the quality of keeper she is.

“When you add the Provincial Golden Boot winner Jennifer Borean you can see the level of talent that we have within this group.”

Female program coaching expert Chris now moves onto Fall and Winter planning for his programs as he bids to help write some more chapters in the success story of the Nitros female program.

And he will also be going back to the start at U13 after he was appointed Head Coach of the new CSL squad which is being formed at that age group.

There he will work alongside U13 OPDL Head Coach Iain King as they bid to piece together the next generation of Nitros to challenge for honours in the seasons to come.

SOCCER SISTERS READY TO BACK ELIZABETH

FIGHTING BACK...Quinton Tostevin, Olivia Mancini and Ella Baldwin will inspire injured team-mate Elizabeth White

NORTH TORONTO NITROS 03 Girls defender Elizabeth White will have the support of her soccer sisters as she starts on the long road back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered last month.

Elizabeth is the FOURTH player in the OPDL title-winning squad to have gone through the pain of an ACL setback.

The curse of these sort of injuries is a hot topic within the female game and Nitros 03 Girls head coach Marc Maunder feels it is vital that Elizabeth now has a strong support network around her.

He sighed: “Right away when the injury happened I feared it looked like another ACL.

“At the very minimum I knew it could be her medial ligament which would not have been so bad but we have had the worst confirmed now.

“It is the fourth ACL tear in four years with this team and that is hard to take.

“We have had this happen to Olivia Mancini, Ella Baldwin and Quinton Tostevin.

“Quinton is now back in training, Ella is a month away from her return and 16 months on from her comeback Olivia is a Provinicial player which shows how you can recover.

“Olivia still wears the knee brace because she is still growing but she is over it.”

As Elizabeth starts on the route to recovery the three other players who have suffered the same blow were together this week as their team enjoyed five days of sessions and classroom analysis work at the Nitros Academy.

Coach Marc knows the bond they have with their team-mate will be vital in the months to come.

And he said: “Quinton’s injury happened in the Play-Off semi-final last season and then with Ella it was very tough to hear the players scream when she went down.

“It was very emotional for all of us and I remember speaking to a physio at that match and saying I couldn’t handle any more of these sort of setbacks.

“He took me aside and told me I had to adjust to this as a coach as it is now a part of the female game.

“So now it has happened again and it was just a tackle that went wrong. Elizabeth, though, is a strong character and she will have the support of myself, her team-mates and our strength and conditioning staff as she begins the journey back.”

NITRO OLIVIA NETS FOR CANADA ON BIG STAGE 

LOVIN' LIFE IN THE OPDL...Olivia, fourth from right in the front row, with Nitros' OPDL title-winning girls

NORTH TORONTO NITROS' Olivia Smith was a goalscoring star for Canada's Under-15 Girls side as they finished fifth in the 2018 Concacaf Championship in Bradenton, Florida, this week.

Top prospect Olivia notched a goal Stateside in Game Four - a 2-0 win over Haiti - in what was a successful campaign for coach Rhian Wilkinson's side.

Canada won three of its four matches, 1-0 over Dominican Republic, 7-0 against Panama and that 2-0 success against Haiti. The only defeat was a 2-1 loss against Costa Rica in the opener.

Canada’s squad featured 18 players who were in born 2003 or later, Nitro Liv is 2004 born. All of these players are therefore eligible for the next Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship in 2020.

Canada coach Wilkinson is herself a Concacaf champion and two-time Olympic bronze medal winner and she said  “I’m very impressed by the level of these young women the REX program produced.

“It was great watching them play and being tested but also coming together as a group. They gain some experience, they learned something and we are very proud of them.”

The next major event for Canada’s Soccer’s Women’s EXCEL Program will be the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup taking place in Uruguay from November 13 to December 1.

Canada qualified for the tournament after placing third at the Concacaf U17 Women’s Championship earlier this year with Nitros' own Sonia Walk at the heart of the efforts. Sonia is battling right now to be part of that final squad for Uruguay.


 

07s BOYS SAY GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK TO LUCAS

            LOVE-LEE GESTURE...delighted Lucas with his Nitros Academy shirt after his final game with his 07s Boys pals

NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 07s Boys this week waved goodbye to a hugely popular player as Lucas Lee and his family relocated to Vancouver.

Over the last 18 months Lucas, also a talented basketball player, has seen his soccer development soar as he moved through the ranks in an 07s program that has a depth of talent.

There was a tinge of sadness then for everyone in the 07s family as Lucas' dad Jason's job took him to a new adventure in the home of the Whitecaps.

Lucas was presented with a Nitros Academy shirt and a special World Cup ball signed by all his team-mates and coaches as he enjoyed his final scrimmage with his squad at Toronto French School on Friday night.

And 07s Head Coach Iain King said: "We are very sorry to see Lucas leave, he typifies everything an NTSC player should stand for in my eyes.

"Dedicated to improving himself, a great work ethic, respectful of his team-mates and coaches and a player who always carries himself with humility.

"It was a privilege to coach Lucas and a pleasure to watch him grow as a soccer player. By luck the Vancouver Whitecaps assistant coach Gordon Forrest is a fellow Scot and friend of mine.

"He has been terrific in helping us to try find the next club for Lucas in his new city, whichever one he chooses the coach is fortunate. They will be getting a special kid."


 05s GIRLS MAKE ONTARIO CUP LAST EIGHT

NORTH TORONTO NITROS 2005 TSA team marched through to the last eight of the Ontario Cup with a superb performance in the heat of Sarnia last weekend.

After an opening 1-1 tie with Brams when Lydia Tung was on target the pressure was on coach Bill Sutherland's side to produce the required results in the next two sectional games.

And the girls reacted to the demands with a 1-0 win over hosts Sarnia, thanks to Ellie Sloan's goal, and a 2-0 success against Puslinch with Emma Parker and Isabella Franco on target.

The team now face Caledon in the last eight on Saturday August 11 and delighted coach Bill said: "Our coaching team was extremely proud of the effort put in by the girls. 

"They showed tremendous commitment with a very short bench and with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s with the humidity. They left it all out on the field to get the results."

With resources already stretched the last thing the Nitros squad needed was a serious injury to a key player but that's exactly what they had to combat.

Bill told ntsoccer.com: "One of our players, Olivia Graham, broke her arm 15 minutes into the first game.  We lost a key player for us but the girls found a way to work through the adversity

"It might seem like a cliché but sticking together and never giving up was so key here. We tried to play the game with confidence and in a way that allows the girls to express themselves. Some timely saves by Piper Nixon and some very timely goals never hurt the cause either."


               MAKING A SPLASH...the 2005 squad who made the Ontario Cup quarter-finals (left to right):                                         Coach  Bill Sutherland, Olivia Julien, Isabella Franco, Sophie Dimuzio, Ellie Sloan, Emma Parker,                                   Elly Hayakawa, Lydia  Tung,  Jaime Goodman, coach Taylor Fleming, Abby Roizman, Piper Nixon,  Taylor Neldner, Amy Maisel, Brianna Livingston, coach Lisa Parker

With that big Cup clash against Caledon looming next month the team return to domestic league business reinvigorated from their success on the road. Coach Bill is determined to see them use the momentum they found in Sarnia to take the next step forward.

He stressed: "We are undefeated in league play with four wins and one tie. The focus for the team from the start was to gain promotion to the CSL for 2019.

"We might be resetting our goals for a league championship if we keep our form and get some more results in the next two weeks."

07s GIRLS: ROCKIN' IT IN ROCHESTER!

THE GREEN MACHINE...Pictured after their Final win over Hilton Heat in blistering temperatures are BACK ROW (Left to right ) Celina Sieber-Espidio, Ellen Salewicz, Lyla Macklin, Katie McMullen, Dorothy Copetti. FRONT ROW (Left to right) Parent Coach Matt McQuillen, Georgia Baldwin, Beatrice Siniscalco, Sarah McQuillen-Young, Stella Hong, Maddie Gray, Mia Tamburri, Parent Coach Sherri Adams.

NORTH TORONTO NITROS 07 Girls travelled to their first ever competitive tournament with high hopes and returned from the USA with a CLEAN SWEEP as they won all three brackets in the Lakefront Classic in Rochester at the weekend.

It was a thrilling performance from the NT girls throughout the program with the Green Team leading the way with a dramatic 3-2 Final win over American side Hilton Heat.

The Nitros looked down and out at 2-1 behind after Beatrice Siniscalco scored for NT but with only three minutes left on the clock a nerve-jangling comeback story began to unfold.

First Dorothy Copetti hauled NT level and then with just 50 seconds left on the clock Celina Sieber-Espidio scored a brilliant winner to clinch it as elsewhere across the Schroeder High School complex more tremendous news for the club was beckoning.

SUNSHINE AND SMILES...for the 07s White girls as they celebrate their Final win. BACK ROW:  (Left to right) coach Nic Hurtado, Head Coach Jesse Assing, Parent Coach Meredith Weir. MIDDLE ROW: Lauren Bolger, Zoe Shawn, Kathryn Weir, Regan Adams, Kaya Melbourne. FRONT ROW (Left to right): Avery Calalang, Sydney Clarke, Aliya Adair, Amelia Kassam, Rachael Kennedy

After marching through their section games undefeated, the strong Nitros White Team faced a Final against local side Clarence Inferno and they proved too hot to handle for the Americans.

In an excellent and tight match Nitros always looked to have that extra edge in technical ability against tough and physical opponents and that proved key as first Sydney Clarke and then Kathyrn Weir hit the target to seal the victory.

Pat Two of this unlikely Treble was now in the bag and the onus now fell on the the Red Team in the last game of a long, hot weekend in the States for the 07 Nitros programs. Could they find the right answers in their Final against Irondequoit SC?

RED-DY TO RUMBLE...the 07 Girls Red Team wrapped up a Treble of Rochester successes BACK ROW: (Left to right) Coach Nic Hurtado, Head Coach Jesse Assing, coach Iain King. MIDDLE ROW: (Left to right) Alana Tylman, Julia Dubrick, Jenna Avramis, Ella Sharpe-Berlet, Alex Nodder FRONT ROW: (Left to right) Alyssa Freer, Mia Kanee, Lauren Mandala, Sophia Skinner, GK Emma Nathans 

The answer was a resounding yes in another exciting Final that saw the NT girls grit it out in punishing temperatures against a side that had a far deeper bench with Nitros only able to have one substitute in this string.

 A shrewd tactical switch from coach Jesse Assing saw the outstanding Lauren Mandala moved to midfield from defence in the second-half with the clock ticking and she roared forward to set up Alex Nodder for the opener.

Then when the chips were down Lauren produced another lung-bursting run to set herself up for a shot that ripped into the roof of the net and sparked another wild bout of Nitros' celebrations on the sidelines as a trio of successes was completed.

For coach Jesse it was the culmination of a winter of hard work with the girls alongside his colleague Iain King and Nic Hurtado and he reflected: "The girls can all be so proud of themselves. This is a group we have always felt is deep in talent when we speak about them in the coaches' room.

"To come to their first competitive tournament and produce results like this only underlines that. They showed not only technical ability but resilience in the heat and dug in for some memorable wins.

"It was a great weekend for the 07s Girls program as a whole, as a club this is the second time we have made the trip to Rochester and it is a terrific learning environment for the players."


WHITE TEAM SHINES BRIGHT FOR 07 BOYS

UNBEATEN AND CHAMPIONS...the 07s Boys White team celebrate their four-game Rochester success on Sunday

NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 07s boys coaching staff worked hard over the winter strengthening the depth of the program with some excellent new talents coming to the club.

And that process bore fruit at the weekend as the White Team lifted the Lakefront Classic title in Rochester in their first competitive tournament.

The 07s boys have always had a richly gifted group in their Green Squad but now that has been bolstered further and the White Team displayed that as they roared through their four games in the States unbeaten to clinch the bracket.

On the Saturday the team won 8-3 against Pittsford Mustangs and 6-3 against hosts Lakefront SC before a dramatic 5-5 tie with Buffalo's Global Premier Soccer Bayern Munich Academy side and a closing 7-0 win over Irondequoit SC secured the championship.

Head Coach Iain King said: "I was very proud of every one of the 07s boys who travelled in the Green, White and Red groups and it was rewarding to see some of our newer players do so well in their first big tournament.

"Players like Jai Sandhu, tournament top scorer Benjamin Koolmees, Ryan Sarkhosh and Joseph Dabdoub only came to the club in the winter and it was great to see them mix with Nitros stalwarts like Ashkan Sheykhi, Ben Fine, Grant Kullojka, JP Mahony, JT Borba and Noah Ag Ibrahim to gain this success.

"I'd also like to pay tribute to my coaching colleague Nic Hurtado and the work done in the Select program as both Thomas Murzaku and Christian Micucci emerged from there and are real developing talents.

"The team got the best preparation possible scrimmaging against Javier Insuaste's 06 Whites Boys before the trip and I think that was a vital exercise for them to arrive in the USA ready to go."

In the flagship Premier bracket the excellent 07s Boys Greens were in brilliant form crashing home 26 goals in three section games to make the semi-finals.

Sadly, they went down to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of eventual winners International FC in the last four to be left with only tears for souvenirs on this occasion.

Coach Iain said: "Those boys were terrific over the weekend, they just got caught up in the semi-final and didn't play their usual passing game which was a shame but they will learn so much from the experience.

"I was also delighted with our Red Team who won two and lost two in a bracket that had another Canadian side's A team in it to put their performance in context."


THE HOUSE THAT NT BUILT: VALUE SOARS 38 YEARS ON

A PLACE for everyone to enjoy the Beautiful Game, it's a key element of the North Toronto Soccer Club DNA.

And nowhere is this core value more evident than in our vibrant House League program.

Head of Recreational Soccer Tom Waud has overseen the evolution of this level of the game at NT over the last two years and he has helped to transform the experience for both players and coaches.

Yet Tom reckons he is only carrying on almost FOUR DECADES of work that has kept House League at the heart of the club.

Tom stressed: “The NTSC House League Program has been an imperative part of the NT Community since 1980.

“It has provided players with a solid soccer foundation, leading to success within the district and all the way to the international stage.

“I can only hope the changes I have made in the past two years can replicate the outstanding achievements made by the staff of the past in the NTSC House League program.”

NTSC in 2018 is about never resting on our laurels in ANY area of the club.

We are constantly seeking ways to improve and enhance all the programs we offer and for Tom that meant looking at the changing needs of the players and coaches who are now involved in House League.

Looking back at the start of the process he revealed: “We wanted to ensure every player has an equal and fair chance in development so we introduced a curriculum with set session plans to follow each week.

“This plays a crucial part in long-term player development, ensuring sessions are age and stage appropriate for all participants.

“We also have a youth recreational league for players aged 14 to 20, and a co-ed adult league for those aged 21-35 which is providing soccer for life opportunities.

“This really encompasses what NTSC is all about. There is a place for everyone.”

EYES ON THE BALL...Under-9 Girls enjoying House League action at the big kick-off of the Spring Program 2018

NTSC House League is a mammoth operation each week and it takes carefully thought-out planning to keep the ball rolling for all those who take part.

The fact that the fun of the soccer action is spread over 10 different venues makes the smooth running of this division of the club even more impressive.

Tom revealed: “We have nearly 2,500 kids and adults participating in our spring House League programs and 4,000 recreational players altogether.

“Games are played at 10 venues across midtown and north Toronto, from St Clair to Finch, Leslie to Keele.

“Given the sheer number of venues at which we operate, we rely heavily on our equipment managers and senior staff to line and cut the fields and ensure each venue is equipped with the right equipment, including nets, corner flags, and first aid kits. It’s a team effort and we have a great team.”

When Tom first arrived at NT from England he worked as a competitive Nitros coach and played a key role in the early development of the promising current 06 Boys and 07 Girls squads.

Now his coaching and organisational skills are used in a different environment but he strongly feels the SAME ethos should run throughout the drive behind developing players whether it’s in House League or the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).

He reasoned: “When it comes to making sure kids have fun playing soccer, age and skill level are irrelevant. 

“Whether I’m coaching competitive teams or within the recreational program, it’s always rewarding to see kids enjoy themselves.

“It's unfortunate that we sometimes assume the simple joy of playing soccer is lost when kids play competitive soccer.

“The simple joy of escaping reality exists at all levels. Many of our players transition from recreational programs to the competitive program.

“It’s so important to me that they take the freedom and creativity that comes with playing recreational soccer into their competitive experience.”

 

THE FIRST STEPS OF THE JOURNEY...learning to love Soccer for Life in the NTSC Boys Under-9 House League 

NT’S army of volunteer coaches and team managers are the unsung heroes of an ever-evolving club facing up to a new and different soccer landscape.

As the face of House League has changed Tom has asked more of those who coach the teams but they keep finding the right answers.

And he said: “I have so much admiration for every single one of our volunteers.

“They are such an integral part of the House League program and we couldn’t do what we do without their help.

“While games are only played twice per week, I don’t think many people realise the dedication of volunteer coaches and the time they spend ensuring kids have a fair and enjoyable playing experience.

“Some of our volunteer coaches have multiple teams and many have been coming back to coach year after year. I think this is a testament to our program and our people.”

The scenes inside the NT office and the Centre of Excellence at Eglinton Park as the kick-off of a House League season looms would be perfect fodder for a reality TV show.

The hubs of it all can be frenzied places, it looks like chaos as Pugg nets, uniforms and last-minute roster changes are all debated as the clock ticks down.

Yet come Day One it swings into action and Tom reckons he’s now get himself over feeling nervous about the opening days. Well, almost.

He smiled: “I have some nerves that I will forget something important but not really.

“Getting the House League program up and running is a team effort and I’m lucky, I work with great people.

”Many of us have overseen the House League program for a number of years and we know what needs to be done and when.

“There are always kinks – especially on the first weekend – but we’re a pretty well-oiled machine at this point. Special mention though to Elaine Beaupre, Beje Melamed-Turkish, Anna Wassermann, and Rachel Cumming.

“Without them I would have aged at least 20 years in the last two years in the job, without their hard work behind the scenes the success of this program would not be possible.”

SELECT GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

 

TAKE IT AS RED...Nic has seen a host of players from sides like these 07 Girls graduate to the competitive program

NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB’S Select Program has more than DOUBLED in size over the last year - proving the appeal of this soccer option for both players and parents alike.

For Select Head Coach Nic Hurtado that statistic is both heartwarming and a solid foundation to build upon as we move into the outdoor season.

The Select program runs alongside the club’s Nitros competitive program to offer not only a pathway but another place to grow as a soccer player.

Nic, who also works in the Nitros ranks as U10 Boys Head Coach, reasoned: “The program has seen such growth because more and more players are looking for a structured training program which can help with development.

“Having a suitable option to attain goals of reaching the Nitros or further is important for the growth of the sport here in Canada.

“The aim is to have as many players playing and enjoying soccer as possible so it's important that as a leading club in Toronto we offer the programs to do so.

“The program has seen rapid growth over the past year or so, expanding from roughly 70 players last outdoor season, to 95 over the first indoor season this past winter to now 160 players in our upcoming outdoor season.”

Select creates an environment for players who may not be quite ready for the competitive level yet or for multi-sport athletes who may not feel able to commit to three practices a week with the Nitros.

Instead they find a place to play meaningful matches in tournaments and festivals and also have two development training sessions each week.

Club stalwart Nic’s job now is to structure and deliver the right building blocks of learning but he insisted:  “The biggest driving force of the Select program are the players. Their willingness to learn, to play and have fun are what make the program possible.

“Select is simply another option for players and families to choose from, opening the door to many more kids being able to learn and enjoy the sport.

“While the coaches, staff and parents are vital to the program, having kids that are eager and willing to work hard to try to improve is what makes it possible.”

Players who are impressing in the Select program always have the chance to graduate onwards to the Nitros.

Nic watches every player’s development closely and then makes recommendations to the age group head coaches if he feels there is a talent there ready to step up.

One shining example of this is 07s boys striker Diego Menendez who moved from Select into the gifted competitive group coached by Iain King and is flourishing there.

Nic smiled: “Seeing players move into the Nitros program from the Nitros Select program is something I love to see.

“Adding another program gives more kids a chance to learn and develop which gives more kids a chance to attain the goal of playing with the Nitros. It's great to see that we're offering a program that can develop individuals to get to where they want to go.”

So if a player is interested in Select what does it mean for them?

Nic and the coaching team here work very hard to construct an appealing playing calendar that is a mix of soccer education, fun and matches to enjoy.

And he said: “The commitment to the Outdoor Select program is two weekday practices with two festivals throughout the season.

“There are two festivals in May, two in June and one in September.

“This leaves July and August free for travel and camps for kids that are away while still holding practices during those months for those who are around.

“For the indoor season come winter we're looking at two practices, one during the week and one during the weekend with the possibility of some indoor festivals once a month if possible.”

Soccer coaching guru Mark O’Sullivan has a quote that resonates inside the Nitros organisation in regard to the growth of the Beautiful Game in Canada.

“As many as possible, for as long as possible, in the best environment possible.”

That means tailoring our programs to fit the needs of players and their families and Select is a great example of that.

As he prepared to take Select squads to Oshawa to play in games alongside their Nitros club mates in the Frank Sobil tournament this weekend, Nic underlined the importance of that aim.

He stressed: “The beauty of the program is it's another option for players and families in the club.

“It's not just about skill but also commitment as the Nitros program can be quite demanding, the Nitros Select gives more flexibility to players and families.

“The program is a great stepping stone for those that couldn't quite make the Nitros and need further development and training.”

*If you want to find out more about the Select Program e-mail coach Nic on nicolas@northtorontosoccer.com


 06s AND 07s LOVING AWAYDAY ADVENTURES

CHEER LEADERS...the Nitros 06 Girls enjoy that end of season feeling after their clash with Orangeville capped a terrific winter season in the Hershey League on Sunday. The girls are now gearing up to head to Ottawa from May 18-20 

NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 06 and 07 girls started a packed May schedule at the weekend when they travelled to Oshawa for the Frank Sobil tournament on Saturday.

With the Select program also represented over 100 Nitros were there in the sunshine enjoying their soccer development in an excellent tournament organised by our friends at Oshawa Kicks.

This weekend it is the turn of the 07 Boys in Oshawa and once more a host of NT players across the competitive and Select programs are relishing some action ahead of the big TSA league kick off later this month for the Nitros and summer festivals for our Select players.

Last year's biting cold and rain was happily replaced by perfect soccer weather and there were some excellent displays - and some big learning games - across both age groups.

The focus falls on the boys 07 groups this weekend and they play in Oshawa just a week away from an eagerly-awaited trip to Ottawa alongside the 06 and 07 Girls as they hit the road to further their soccer education.

The girls will face top opposition from the nation's capital and Quebec whilst the 07 Green Boys squad have an intriguing clash with the Academy side of MLS franchise Montreal Impact to look forward to.

Iain King, head coach of the 06 Girls and 07 Boys, told ntsoccer.com: "The players are all looking forward to the Ottawa trip so much.

"The 06 Girls have already travelled to Rochester together in the USA last summer but for both of the 07 groups this is their first trip together.

"I feel strongly that these experiences - both on and off the field - are a vital part of their development as soccer players and it's a privilege to be involved in seeing them grow through tournaments like this."


OUR 04 GIRLS AIM TO BE A FOUR-CE

GOING OUT ON A HIGH...the 04 Girls left Ohio buoyant after a thumping win in their last game in the States

NORTH TORONTO NITROS 04 Girls begin their first competitive season in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) this weekend after an exciting American adventure that boosted their soccer education last month.

The U14 side, coached by Henry McIntosh, travelled to Ohio to take part in the prestigious Puma Blue Chip Showcase Event.

It was a terrific learning experience for the girls as they adapted to the level of stern competition Stateside.

Nitros lost their opener 3-0 to Cleveland Futbol before their Ontario provincial player Rufina Abdursul was on target in the second game that saw them go down 3-1 to hosts Kings Hammer Academy.

They rallied superbly in their last match, though, as Rufina grabbed a double and Eden Cohen, Hana Miller and Maddie Wong also hit the target in a 5-1 triumph over Boca Myers.

Henry believes the experience can only stand the squad in good stead as they prepare for the OPDL season and he reasoned: “The girls were nervous to play in the showcase format against American opponents who have a reputation of being very physical and direct.

“Winning the last game the way they did was a tremendous boost to their confidence. I’m looking forward to the girls building on the success of the last game in a way that will make them a competitive force in this OPDL season.”

Nitros open up the OPDL season against SC Toronto on Sunday as they face a campaign where there will be scores and standings for the first season in their soccer careers.

Coach Henry will continue to focus on the development of the players despite the new environment they find themselves in.

He stressed: “The impact of scores and standings this season on the players will only become apparent when the season starts and we either lead the standings or end up chasing points.”

For Rufina the start of the OPDL season comes a week after she represented Ontario in the Provincial clashes against Quebec with the U14s girls squad edging their rivals over the three-game series.

Her club coach could not be prouder of his player, one of 16 Nitros who made the Provincial sides, and Henry smiled: “I couldn’t be happier for Rufina, the team and North Toronto SC as a whole regarding the Provincial successes.

“I feel that our ability to continuously place players at this high level of our sport is a testament to the quality of the players and coaches we now have at North Toronto.”


NTSC HAILS OUR 16 PROVINCIAL PLAYERS 

NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB has hailed the 16 dedicated Nitros players who have been selected for the Ontario provincial rosters.

The club’s Technical Director Billy Wilson is delighted to see so many boys and girls recognised throughout our competitive program.

Ontario’s squads at U14, U15 and U16 level will take part in a series of games this weekend at the Ontario Soccer Centre and Vaughan Grove Sports Park.

And Billy is thrilled that eight boys and eight girls who have the NTSC DNA will take part in the matches to proudly represent our club.

He said: “Everyone at the club is thrilled to see so many players from North Toronto SC have been selected to represent the province against Quebec.

“The provincial program is used by Ontario Soccer to showcase the top male and female players at the U14, U15 and U16 age groups to Canada Soccer, Toronto FC and numerous NCAA and CIS universities.

“As a club we hope that by participating in this event many of our athletes will take that next step in their development by moving from NTSC into environments such as REX, the regional excellence program, and TFC Academy on a full-time basis.”

THE THEATRE OF DREAMS...Ontario Soccer Centre where 16 Nitros players will play for the province against Quebec

On the boys side at U16 level Miles Omondi from Martinho Kibato’s squad will look to shine.

Our U15 OPDL-winning squad, mentored by Marko Milanovic, provides four players for the province in Dennis Escobar, Dylan Lopes, Kael Dimitrov and Pablo Hempelmann Perez.

At U14 boys level Octavian Ghidinac’s squad will be backing Adrian Zeluta, Bilal Abouresian and Damien Vermande as they tackle Quebec.

From the girls program from coach Marko’s 2002 squad five players make it with Chantelle Parker, Keyosha Donkor, Lauren Hart, Olivia Bizzoni and Olivia Rizakos honoured.

The U15 squad, coached by Marc Maunder, has Alya Ruken representing the Nitros with Henry McIntosh’s U14s cheering on Olivia Mancini and Rufina Abdursul over the weekend.

NTSC TD Billy saluted the efforts of the coaching staff in mentoring the players but most of all the commitment of the Nitros youngsters themselves in reaching this level.

He stressed: “The club have done a fantastic job in promoting many young players into environments such as REX and TFC Academy in recent times.

“That comes down to the quality of the work done by our Technical Staff coaches and more importantly the commitment of the individual players who are working towards their goals of reaching the next level.

“Our OPDL Program aims to provide committed individuals with the necessary guidance and support to step up to the next level.”

Ontario Soccer’s Technical Director Gary Miller is looking forward to the Quebec series which will run over Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the two venues.

This is a big test for the players in a high-performance environment and Gary explained: “The Inter-Provincial Competition is where the Canada Soccer Excel Technical Staff will be on hand to scout the players for potential invites to the Canada Soccer National Excel environments.

“In addition, scouts from Toronto FC and all over Canada and North American universities will be in attendance to see the best of what Ontario has to offer.”

Ontario Soccer’s Senior Manager of High Performance Bryan Rosenfeld sees these games as an excellent gauge for the progress of the Ontario players.

He reasoned: “This is always a good test for the Ontario athletes to see where they are against the next biggest province for development in Canada.

“Having the best compete against the best even in this friendly format is a good gauge of how Ontario clubs are developing these players and sets them up well for the next stage of their development and careers.”

The Provincial program is available to all Ontario Soccer registered players who are competing at either an U14, U15 or U16 age group.

The Ontario Provincial Development League (OPDL) is the primary venue in which potential Provincial Team Players are detected.

Visit OntarioSoccer.net for more on the Provincial Program or TheOPDL.com for more on that high-performance program.  


OUR NTSC VISION: SOCCER WITHOUT BARRIERS

 

SOCCER FOR ALL...some of the NTSC Special Olympics program players enjoy their practice in the gym

THE simple joy of bringing a soccer ball under your spell, even just for a fleeting moment.

Something we all too often take for granted.

Something every soccer player cherishes.

Something coaches Tom Waud and Nic Hurtado want to make sure every child in North Toronto Soccer Club’s Special Olympics and Para Soccer programs has the chance to experience.

NT’s Head of Recreation Soccer Tom has learned a new side of the Beautiful Game working with children of disabilities.

And when ntsoccer.com caught up with him to talk over the innovative programs he has helped design he smiled: “It is very rewarding when something you have worked on comes to fruition.

“It might take a child a little longer to grasp and complete an objective but we have children who have been here for three years now playing soccer and having such fun doing that.

“This is not about short-term rewards, it’s about the long-term goals and we have had kids graduate now into regular House League soccer.

“That’s a huge achievement in terms of Long Term Player Development and it is great to see how welcome they are  made and how they are accepted into the teams there.”

In January Tom and Nic were in Ottawa for the internationally-acclaimed Sport 4 Life conference to boost their knowledge of the challenges the children they work with face.

Tom revealed it was an eye-opening experience as they moved from learning about physical literacy to going in-depth on tailored special needs programs.

He stressed: “It allowed us to see what other clubs are offering, it gave us an insight into their problems and highlighted our own.

“Clubs suffer from a lack of facilities or money to run these programs whereas we have the opposite situation at North Toronto SC.

“We are very fortunate to have the facilities, the equipment and the coaches to run our programs. We struggle to find the players.

“We are one of the only clubs in Toronto who offer an all-year round program so we have a niche and we just have to find the kids.

“Once they have experienced the programs we can offer we have found that they stay.”

A generous grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation has given a club at the heart of its community the security to plan ahead in this key area of ensuring soccer for all.

Tom is now able to put the infrastructure required behind the programs for those with disabilities.

And he reflected: “The Trillium grant was a huge boost and it means we can plan ahead and support our administrative and coaching staff.

“They can be paid to come in and work with the children and that helps so much. It means we can hire the facilities and give these kids somewhere to play.

“We have players in our current program who have both physical and intellectual needs and you want to find them the best fit.

“North Toronto do well at making the programs accessible and we to make sure they get success, confidence and fun from playing soccer.”

Tom grew up in the game as a keenly ambitious player who then coached in NT’s competitive arm with the Nitros.

Now a key part of his job has opened his eyes to what soccer means to children who are playing with an entirely different view of the game and the field.

He explained: “The main difference from planning as a coach for children without disabilities is that there I would tailor it to a group of players - here it is about each individual.

“Every single child’s needs are very different. For example you may have a child who is partially sighted where safety is vital and we have to set up the right activities for them.

“You plan a session with one objective but you may have up to 14 different sub-sessions within that.

“We pair them up with children of similar needs and planning is a huge part of the session. It could be one coach to one player.”

Behind the scenes at NT it is hectic right now with House League, Select and Competitive sections readying themselves for the switch outdoors.

For Special Olympics and Para Soccer it is no different as Tom and Nic plot the way forward.

Tom said: “We will look again at Allenby School which is a great environment for us.

“Long term we want to get as many children with disabilities involved as possible. We’d love to expand into blind and deaf soccer in the future.

“Right now, though, we have Para Soccer and the Special Olympics program and we need to keep those sustainable and develop from there.”

Tom’s fellow coach Nic has been living and breathing NTSC since he was eight years old.

Back then Nic, now 25, joined the club as a player and it has been a huge part of his life ever since.

From recreational to competitive coach and now heading up the Select programs and the U10 Nitros boys this summer.

Nic began playing a part in the Special Olympics program last year.

And he said: “It is nice to give a bit back to these families, the kids are happy and it is the simple things that keep them smiling.

“Para Soccer is something different again and we are desperate to see that grow even more.

“It has shown me that I am at a club with a heart because it is hard for these families to find programs like this that suit their schedules.”

Nic is the first point of contact for the families as they look for the right program to bring the power of soccer into their childrens’ lives.

Much of his time on this project is spent networking with other organisations to identify the players who would benefit from our help and bring them into the NT family.

He said: “We are giving the kids an opportunity to play sport that might not have been there for them before.

“I reached out to the Cerebral Palsy sports association and we have spoken to the likes of Holland Bloorview and the Sick Kids Hospital too.

“Where these kids are receiving treatment is a key place to make contact and let them what NT is doing.

“We reached out to the Cerebral Palsy association and Drew Ferguson, the national coach, even offered to come coach for us and bring players with him.

“That is the spirit of co-operation that is evident and everyone is out to help the kids, it’s not about self-interest.

“This becomes about scheduling and us finding the best time to offer the programs to fit in with the kids’ lives.”


NT SETTING THEIR SIGHTS ON A GOLDEN FUTURE

GOLD STANDARD...NTSC Chairman Michael Eubanks, left of centre, and General Manager Doug Blair receive the Club Excellence Gold Award from Ontario Soccer as the club begins to put the plans in place to make further progress

NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB is a Club Excellence Gold award holder again but for those inside NT the work on the next steps forward is just beginning.

NTSC has held Ontario Soccer’s highest Gold status for five years now as the drive to raise soccer standards throughout the province continues at pace.

When ntsoccer.com caught up with General Manager Doug Blair to reflect on receiving the award there was a brief time to pause and survey the development of the club then the sights were set firmly on the future.

Doug revealed: “Going forward, Canada Soccer will be introducing a Club Licensing program which will replace Ontario Club Excellence. NTSC will be among the first clubs to be invited to apply.

“Ontario Soccer’s Club Excellence program has established standards in the areas of technical performance, club governance, personnel and community relations.

“Achieving these standards - and progressing through the bronze and silver levels on the way to gold – is a multi-year commitment.

“The process involves reference to best practices within the club and at similar organisations, extensive consultations with our stakeholders, and some degree of trial and error to develop and implement the policies and procedures required. 

“Our Board of Directors has made the commitment to drive this process and to monitor the progress.”

For almost 40 years now the heart of NT has been the club’s House League and Recreational programs that ensure soccer for all.

As the soccer culture in Canada evolves so have the expectations of House League players and parents and that is something the club has recognised and adapted to.

Doug stressed: “North Toronto has had a strong house league for nearly four decades. As the population of children and youth in the community has grown, the program has expanded to accommodate over 4,000 players.

“For many years NTSC has provided skills training in this program, in addition to organised, refereed games. Parents expect more than a simple House League.

“There are 600 volunteer coaches in the program. The club is working hard to provide training and support to these coaches – training, session plans and on-field help - so that the quality of soccer at all ages is continually improving.”

Operating at the heart of the community we serve is a key component of the DNA of NTSC.

In January club coaches Tom Waud and Nic Hurtado were in Ottawa for a conference examining advances in the provision of soccer programs to those with learning or physical disabilities.

Now NT is using the knowledge gained to telling effect and Doug stressed: “One of our stated visions is to provide the opportunity to play soccer to every child in the community who wishes to participate.

“The NTSC Special Olympics program for intellectually challenged young athletes began five years ago and has recently expanded to include children under seven.

“This program has generated immense support from volunteers and donors. The next stage is the new Para Soccer program, introduced recently to support young athletes with physical challenges.

“The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Rotary Club of Toronto-Eglinton and private donors have made these programs sustainable.”

A community club the size of NT relies heavily on the army of volunteers who are at its core.

The quest must always be to ensure that those who give up their time feel both appreciated and enriched by the experience.

That responsibility is always at the forefront of the club’s thinking and Doug reasoned: “There are 700 volunteers, not only in house league but helping with the all-abilities programs and the competitive teams.

“The club has an elected volunteer Board of Directors as well as active committees. The commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteers is appreciated, but we must continually strive to support the volunteers, help them become effective, and to make the experience rewarding for them.”

In the competitive division of the club, NT Nitros won two OPDL banners last season in the girls and boys sections.

Those successes and the presence of Nitros players in both Provincial and National team squads gives the emerging talents at the club positive role models to look up to as they develop as players.

Doug said: “The message is that a key part of the club’s vision is to support children and youth in the community at all levels of play with a high standard of coaching and facilities.

“While there is a place for everyone to play, the opportunity does exist within our club for girls and boys to play in the highest-level league – OPDL – and to be invited to provincial and national team camps.

“Over 100 local community players have been on NTSC’s OPDL rosters.

“The players and their families have made a serious commitment in terms of time and money.”

Stockholm-based coach development guru Mark O’Sullivan, who spoke at the recent Ontario Soccer Summit, has a touchstone statement when it comes to the challenge of how we keep our young soccer players in love with the Beautiful Game.

“As many as possible, for as long as possible, in the best environment possible.”

Those goals are now reflected within NT as we look to help our young players grow into other rewarding roles at the club.

Doug revealed: “This is another key part of our vision for the club, to have interested club players trained and mentored as coaches and match officials.

“Each year more than 100 of our players work for the club in one or both of these capacities.

“The quality of these young referees and coaches is continually improving. There is competition for these jobs.”

As the outdoor season beckons there is a sense of renewal around NT, a readiness to tackle whatever the next year throws at us.

So what does Doug see as the key areas for improvement for the club over the next 12 months?

He said: “The three key areas are;

    1. “Accelerating the development of coaches in all club programs so that all players have the opportunity to meet their full potential.
    2. “For all programs, establishing clear objectives and communicating these effectively to players and their families.
    3. “Responding to the demand for more intensive training opportunities for players not in the competitive leagues, including indoor skills training programs and Select teams.”

In his time at the club Doug has seen huge changes in how NT operates and the demands that the club faces.

Landing the Gold Award once more confirms that the club has learned to adapt to the ever-altering soccer landscape and the NT General Manager reflected: “The biggest change has been the expansion of programs, both in terms of capacity and level of play.

“The club has obtained access to significantly more field time including artificial turf year-round.

“The coaching staff is larger and increasingly higher qualified. This combination of coaching and facilities has resulted in a vibrant recreational program that is accessible to all young players in the community.

“The development and competitive programs now support players from entry level to the highest level league, OPDL.”

NT’s new Technical Director Billy Wilson made the switch from Ontario Soccer last month  to work alongside the Board of Directors and Doug in helping to frame a structured future for the club.

There will always be new obstacles to overcome in an evolving soccer club but Doug believes it is hugely important that NT retains the core values it has always treasured.

He pointed out: “Our collective vision for the club has been consistent for several years, and is articulated on the club website: https://www.ntsoccer.com/about-us/MissionVisionValues 

“Our recreational and all-abilities programs will continue to provide soccer for every player who wishes to play within our community. 

“And for each age group the competitive program will have teams of both genders in the three tiers of competitive soccer (OPDL, regional leagues, district league) and will also field select teams for players at different stages of development or desiring a lower level of commitment.

“Some components of our vision will receive more attention as our programs mature including: coach development; opportunities for scholarships; and securing longer-term access to indoor and outdoor facilities.

“All of this will be accomplished within a fiscally responsible framework.”

Working within NT behind the scenes can often be hectic with meetings, headaches over field space and all the day to day dramas that exist within a soccer club.

At the weekends and at night, though, Doug still does his rounds of the North Toronto fields to watch the players and coaches of all levels in action.

That’s what keeps his love for the game of soccer burning and he smiled: “It is gratifying to experience the quality of play in OPDL, with so many of our players identified for the provincial program and winning Ontario championships.

“ It is always great to spend time at the field on weeknights and weekends when there are no meetings.

“For me it is very rewarding to watch enthusiastic young athletes enjoying soccer while improving their command of soccer skills.

“I have been excited to watch children who are turning six and seven this year in the indoor Train-to-be-a Nitro program. All of them have exceptionally high skill levels and they are having a lot of fun.

"In the house leagues and development programs, there is a great community feel with so many parents attending and volunteering. That is so rewarding to see.”


NITROS' OWSL SQUADS ARE READY FOR NEW FACES

 

     JOIN THE GREEN MACHINE...our successful Nitros' OWSL squads are now on the lookout for new recruits

NORTH TORONTO NITROS are ready to bolster the program that has seen the club win back to back promotions and have our leading side competing in the Provincial Elite Division of the Ontario Women’s Soccer League (OWSL).

Try-outs are being staged for the top team and our two Under-21 squads in April and May under the watchful eyes of Head Coach Chris Vickers.

Dedicated players have the chance to win a slot and Chris is ready to welcome selected new recruits into the fold.

He stressed: “We currently have players from both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in the program and it has been a great journey for the women’s side over the last two years.

“Winning back to back promotions has placed them in the top league but we are always looking to strengthen throughout the program and that’s why we have arranged the try-out process.”

Underneath the Women’s team there are two squads in our vibrant Under-21 set-up with one competing in the Provincial Division and the other in the Regional Division.

Chris said: “The new season brings with it new challenges and we want to build on what we have achieved in the program to date.

“We feel we are doing that from a position of strength and we look forward to welcoming some new faces into an already excellent environment.”

* DO you have what it takes to join our exciting Nitros Women’s Program? Find out more about this season’s Try-Outs by contacting Head Coach Chris Vickers on chris@northtorontosoccer.com 


REX - THE POWER TO INSPIRE

WHAT A HAT-TRICK...the three Nitros prospects who made it to REX

NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ three Ontario REX program recruits have the power to inspire the current generation of up and coming players to develop their love of soccer.

Sonia Walk, Jasmine Vilgrain and Olivia Smith were part of the first intake of prospects to be invited into an environment that sees them train and go to school together as they aspire towards the national team set-up.

The NT Newsdesk will be monitoring their progress throughout 2018 and there is no question that the forward-thinking REX program gives NT players a dream to shoot for.

Coach Marc Maunder, who guides the club’s U13 and U15 girls squads, stressed: “We have those three players in the REX program now and they are role models to our younger girls throughout the NT programs from recreational to competitive.

“Before in OPDL, for instance, your target may have been to aim for being a Provincial player but now there is another dream there to make it into REX.

“Why shouldn’t the girls have the same aspirations as the boys? They can one day leave NT and make it to another level just as the boys can when they go to the Toronto FC Academy.

“There’s another step there for them and something more to achieve.”

This weekend the 2005 girls continue their development journey as they take part in the Jefferson Cup in Richmond, Virginia.

Marc is eager to see how the players deal with this next challenge and he said: “This team starts OPDL in May and I believe they can uphold what we are seeing develop as the North Toronto style of playing.

“Potentially, we have a lot of players who can move towards the provincial screening process but they have to keep working hard.

“I think the 2005 squad has what it takes to do well this season and next season. When scores and standings become part of it we will be very competitive.”

To find out more about the REX program and its aims click here.


BILLY SETTLES INTO THE NT FAMILY

NEW North Toronto Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson is relishing the task ahead after a hectic first week in the job.

The former Manager of Player Development at Ontario Soccer took over the reins on Thursday March 1 and has been blown away by the potential he sees at the club.

Billy kicked off his time at Nitros by meeting the coaching staff at the Eglinton Park clubhouse.

        

RELISHING THE CHALLENGE...Billy is settling in at the Nitros after moving from Ontario Soccer

And he said: "It was was great to sit down with the staff to introduce myself, answer some questions, and together set some objectives for the coming months.

“Going forward the whole staff will meet on Thursday afternoons which will not only promote better communication and collaboration on technical programming, but will also serve as an additional opportunity for coach development.”

Billy was then joined by other members of the technical staff at the Ontario Soccer Summit held over the weekend.

This week it was tracksuit time in the evenings, getting to know the practice set-up and meeting players and parents alike during a string of sessions at Downsview.

And Billy stressed: “It has been great getting on the field and observing the staff and players doing their thing.

“I must say the highlight has to be my undefeated performance when I was asked to join in the Boys U8 2v2 games last week!”

Coach mentorship is a vital area of development for the club in 2018 and Billy kicked off the efforts there by overseeing some key staff practice sessions as we seek to bolster the already impressive qualifications of our technical staff.

With such a vastly experienced coaching roster to call on, Nitros are keen to use that bank of knowledge to develop the emerging talent.

Billy pointed out: “Coach development has to be a priority for all youth clubs.

“All coaches require ongoing mentorship and accessible development opportunities to ensure the successful completion of professional Licensing but more importantly to promote a learning culture.

“There is already mentorship going on at the Club with some of our younger staff shadowing their more experienced colleagues, however we will now be working towards formalising a Coach Development pathway.”