Silver medal winning team thrived during adverse season

(Courtesy OCAA) (Courtesy OCAA)

Euginio Garro

SPORTS REPORTER

The 2016 Humber Hawks women’s soccer team had hints of being a special team from kick-off. When this band of sisters opened this season it was safe to say it was a new team, a team preparing to take 22 players, 15 of them rookies.

“The hardest part was to put a system in place that will adhere to the talent these girls had,” said Assistant Coach Jose Caro. “We had speed, agility and good ball control, so rather than focusing on those elements, we focused on making sure they all played their position to the best of their ability.”

Early in the season they looked like a contender, a young team with grit and determination who would do anything they could to win. Through just a few games into the season, the team was doing just that, winning.

“What made us successful was their desire to want to compete against bigger and more experienced teams,” Caro said. “That’s something you cannot teach.”

Through the team’s first six games, they remained undefeated going 5-0-1, tying one game. Many people would look at the five wins but it was the one tie that had many believing this team was special.

“I figured after we tied Seneca at their home field 0-0 this group was special,” Caro said. “You look at the experience Seneca had on their roster in comparison to ours and you realized we might be in trouble.”

“After the game I told the rest of the coaching staff that this group is special,” he said.

The Seneca Sting would finish in first place in their division after defeating Humber 1-0 in the second matchup on Oct. 18. But when it all came down to it the Hawks got the better of the Sting 2-1 in the semi-finals on Oct. 28 via penalty kicks and would play for provincial gold.

The Hawks walked away as OCAA silver medalists, losing to powerhouse from Ottawa, the Algonquin Thunder. It was the first time the Humber ladies made the finals since 2012 when they won gold.

Justine Robb was a defender on that team four years ago and sees many similarities between the two teams.

“The girls are all friends and they always want to be around each other,” Robb said. “I think it takes a family and cohesion to be the best team, and this is what is so similar.”

Robb believes this team also has what the team has been missing the past few seasons: passion.

“They have the passion that the team had been lacking over the last few years,” she said.

Team captain Alexandra Giannone is in her final year with the Hawks and she was on the team that won OCAA bronze in 2013. She was always very vocal but heading into the final against Algonquin she had a simple message for her teammates.

“I told them it was a feeling like no other,” she said. “I told them this was what you worked for your entire soccer career and that it was something they deserve.”

She has been through the highs and lows in her time at Humber but is happy she finished on a high note.

“I’m at a loss for words when it comes to this team, it was truly an honour and privilege being their captain,” Giannone said. “Every single girl on this team made my last year worthwhile.”

The Hawks have a bright future ahead if the core of this team can stay put. With some good recruiting and leadership, a gold medal could be well within reach.

“These girls weren’t just teammates, they were sisters and best friends, they were family,” Giannone said.

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