West Side Monarchs’ Richard Peddle, left, and Cody Elford of the Under-16s chase after the ball during the opening game of the spring invitational soccer tournament at Wellington Street Sports Complex on Wednesday night. — Star photo by Chris Quigley
The Corner Brook Spring Invitational Men’s Soccer Extravaganza is an exhibition tournament, but it certainly means a lot to Western under-16 soccer team coach Jerry Gallant.
Away from the province working for the past nine years, the Stephenville native and current Humber Valley Resort resident agreed to take the coaching reins of Western’s Subway Under-16 Provincial League entry this summer.
The only problem is, most of the guys he’s coaching were toddlers when he left the island.
“I haven’t seen them before, I don’t know anybody,” he said during Wednesday night’s tournament opener against the West Side Monarchs.
The Monarchs defeated the Under-16s 2-0 on the strength of two goals from Chris Grant and a flawless effort in net from Steve Vardy.
“I think it means more to me than them,” Gallant said. “I get to see them now and learn a few things about what we have to work on.
“It’s good for them too,” he added. “It helps them get a few games in.”
Provincial league play begins Monday, though Western won’t begin its schedule until the weekend of May 24-25. Nine other teams are vying for the championship, including St. John’s 16A, St. John’s, Metropolitan United, Feildians, Northeast Avalon, Portugal Cove-St. Phillips, Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl and Burin Peninsula.
Judging from Wednesday night’s game, plus a half-dozen practices which started indoors back in April, Gallant feels Western should be able to hold their own in provincial play.
“It’s a good team,” he said. “There’s lots to learn, but I see a lot of potential.”
Monarchs’ two-goal man Grant also liked what he saw from the opposition.
“They have a lot of good skill, the pass the ball around well and don’t panic and they’ve got a good coach,” he said. “So I thought they looked pretty good.”
As for his own club’s performance, Grant said raising their overall fitness level will be the main focus during this tournament and the first few weeks of the Corner Brook Molson Senior Men’s Soccer League regular season.
“It’s a fun kick-off, with a couple of games to get our wind again,” he said of the tournament.
He said he caught a few breaks on his pair of goals, particularly on the second one, where the rebound off a free kick landed right on his foot in front of the net.
“A bit of luck,” he said. “It’s a good way to start.”
The following is a summary of the other tournament game on Wednesday night:
Stephenville 2, Sorrento Tactics FC 1
Zack Attwood struck twice, in the first and 52nd minute, to power Stephenville to the win.
Steve Huxter put up the only marker for the Tactics.
Tournament play resumes 9 p.m. tonight when the Steers Insurance Curling Rangers lock horns with the Under-18s.