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Panthers reach Ontario Cup semifinals

Under-14 girls hit new heights for Pelham soccer The Pelham Panthers Soccer Club’s under-14 girls team was playing in a rarified air this season.
The Pelham Panthers under-14 girls soccer team is comprised of Nicole Dixon, Grace Conley, Savannah Speck, Abby Stolk, Julia Tremeer, Kelsey Coers, Jayna Stanley, Kayleigh DiGirolamo, Claire Piekny, Easton Fournier, Samantha Dino, Maggie Mannell, Emma Vendittelli, Brianna DeMarchi, Olivia Bittman, and Chiara Durdan. BERNIE PUCHALSKI

Under-14 girls hit new heights for Pelham soccer

The Pelham Panthers Soccer Club’s under-14 girls team was playing in a rarified air this season.

Club officials could not recall a Pelham team even making it out of the preliminary rounds of Ontario Cup play and this year’s under-14 team made it all the way to the semifinals before losing 3-2 in penalty kicks to the London Alliance FC Mustangs.

On the way to the semifinals, the Panthers defeated Etobicoke Youth Team Power 6-0, Paris FC 11-1, Caledon SC Blue 3-2 and SC Toronto 2-1.

“They had never been at such a level and the way we decided who was going to take the penalty kicks was after the game, we asked who wants one,” coach Davie Currie said. “Six or seven hands went up and just to have the courage to take one was great. The greatest players in the world can miss on them and that’s just how it goes.”

Pelham tied the game 2-2 with five minutes left in regulation time and then lost 3-2 in penalty kicks.

“It was disappointing at the time but now looking back, making it that far and tying the game up in regular time was a big accomplishment,” player Julia Tremeer said.

Currie echoed her comments.

“It is a huge accomplishment for a small town,” he said. “Every game we played —and it didn’t matter if we were playing in the league or in the Ontario Cup — we took it game by game and didn’t look ahead. It sounds cheesy and cliche but we never looked ahead and thought we could go here or we could go there. We just keep going and going and going.”

The team certainly did that at the local level. Competing in the Niagara Soccer League, the Panthers finished with a perfect 12-0 record, outscoring the opposition 119-4. For the NSL League Cup Championship Tournament, the girls were moved up to play in the under-15 Cup and they won it, going 3-0 and outscoring the opposition 19-0.

“Many from this group have been playing soccer in Pelham since they were under-8 and under-9 age. These girls are tremendous athletes but more noteworthy they are extremely hard working and committed to improving their technique and their understanding of the game,” coach Ann Piekny said. “We couldn’t be happier for them to have had such a successful season, especially after being sidelined from the game for much of last year.”

Currie pointed to a number of reasons for the team’s success.

“It was the girls’ attitude, their work ethic, everyone comes to practice and we always get good numbers at training,” he said. “And they had a great base. The coaches before us did a really good job of giving them the basics.”

Tremeer felt the team’s closeness made it successful.

“What makes this team so special are the people on it and the relationships we have and the friendships we have on this team. It is so important because if we are connected as a team, we will play more as a team on the soccer field,” she said. “We knew if we worked really hard then we could do something special as a team.”

Attention to detail was also important.

“We try to emphasize practice performance and everything we do in a practice, it was that same high standard we brought into games,” Currie said. “It wasn’t one defining moment but each week we kept getting better.”

He is hoping the Panthers can continue to build next season.

“I am sure some of the girls are getting phone calls from other teams outside the region like Burlington or Hamilton but they all want to stay together,” Currie said. “The toughest thing for us is where are they going to play and get challenged a little bit more.

“Our hope is that we get the chance to represent the region whether that is the Ontario Cup again but we would love to be in the crossover league.”

Members of the team, coached by Piekny, Currie and Chris Durdan, were Abby Stolk, Kelsey Coers, Savannah Speck, Claire Piekny, Easton Fournier, Samantha Dino, Brianna DeMarchi, Olivia Bittman, Kayleigh DiGirolamo, Tremeer, Grace Conley, Jayna Stanley, Maggie Mannell, Chiara Durdan, Nicole Dixon, and Emma Vendittelli.