By Dan Plouffe,
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the Ottawa Fury under-17 girls’ soccer team produced the national capital’s biggest accomplishment in youth soccer history last week when it captured the region’s first-ever Super-Y League championship in Tampa, FL.
“To win something of this magnitude is really big not just for our club, but for the entire city,” Fury coach Jimmy Zito says. “The whole season was great. It just got better and better. There was no down part, nothing that really held us back – it was great the entire time.”
The U17 Fury girls likely represent the greatest collection of talent ever assembled on a single Ottawa team. With a roster stock full of national champions with Team Ontario – and even an international CONCACAF champ – the Carleton University-based soccer stars from across the city now own a North American title as well thanks to their undefeated run at the United Soccer Leagues finals Nov. 19-23.
On the heels of an 8-0 season in the New England conference, the Fury won a pair of games and tied another two in preliminary-round play before claiming shutout victories over Cleveland (2-0 in the semi-finals) and London (3-0 in the championship game) to clinch the crown.
In the playoff round, Breanna Burton and Marissa Duguay scored for Ottawa, while tournament MVP Lauren Hughes counted three of her six goals overall. Abbey Lindblad, Alex Skeggs, Melissa Erturk, Laura Callender and goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands also had MVP-calibre performances, Zito notes, as his team allowed just two goals in five games against their top continental opponents.
“I had a back-four that was just air-tight,” Zito adds. “I had two goalkeepers that conceded two goals the entire tournament. Defence wins championships – that’s no secret to anyone.”
The triumph meant that much more to Zito since he lost a Super-Y league final by a single goal with another U17 Fury team a few years ago. It was the first USL title for the club, whose W-League team has been to the pro women’s league final-four on numerous occasions, but never won the big prize.
A few other Fury squads illustrated just how difficult it can be to win it all – both the U16 and U14 Fury boys teams didn’t lose in the preliminary round, but missed out on the playoff round nonetheless due to ties. The U15 and U17 boys, along with the U15 girls, also competed at the league finals in Florida, which meant the Fury U17 girls had a big Ottawa booster section for the championship game.
“They were cheering and hooting and hollering the whole time. It’s a really big thing for the club,” describes Zito, who hopes the title will lead to more for the Fury in the future. “The kids see that it is a possibility now, it’s not a pipe dream, so hopefully this is the first of many.”
The match was the last time many of the Fury players will suit up together on the same team, with as many as eight bound for the NCAA next season on full athletic scholarships. Zito explains that’s the major reward for years and years of hard work by the girls, but the final memory they’ll have from their Fury youth days will certainly be a lasting one.
“When the whistle went, the girls went absolutely nuts. I was shaking,” Zito recalls. “That’s the biggest goal I’ve had with the Fury since I began six years ago. For it to come true, and for my owner John Pugh to give me this opportunity, I’m still over the moon, living in la-la land right now.”