© Star photo by Chris Quigley
Western U16 player Ryan Joyce takes a penalty kick during a drill at team practice Tuesday night at Wellington Street Sports Complex.
Ryan Joyce knows exactly why he’s been hooked on soccer since first running around George (Daddy) Dawe Memorial pitch as a three-year-old.
“The adrenalin,” he said. “When you score a goal, that excitement is just amazing.”
Now 15, the son of Corner Brook’s Tammy and Blaine is a key member of the midfield corps for the Western representative in the Subway Boys U16 Provincial Soccer League.
It’s a unique position, he explains, because a midfielder almost has to be attacking and defending at the same time, which clearly burns a lot of energy. There’s not much worse than tired legs when trying to defend against an opposing striker.
That could prove especially true this weekend, as Joyce and his teammates are up against near-insurmountable odds as they open the provincial league playoffs against the St. John’s 16s squad 1:30 p.m. today. The match is one of two league semifinal contests being played today in St. John’s.
To put what Western is up against into perspective, the St. John’s 16s finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. They scored 126 goals, while only allowing seven against.
Western, meanwhile, had a respectable record of 10-6-2, scoring 61 times and giving up 27.
The teams met twice in early June, with the St. John’s club winning 4-0 and 3-0.
According to Joyce, the only way to approach a game against an odds-on favourite is to be determined to work harder than they do. If that happens, he believes his side can put up a pretty good fight.
It’s possibly even more of a factor for Western, since Joyce said the knock on them at times has been their lackadaisical attitude towards certain games or opponents.
“Maybe they think we’re going to do that with them,” he said. “But we’re not.”
Getting a goal or two early would go a long way towards amping up the team’s collective confidence and maybe make an upset a little more probable. Then there’s also the undeniable motivation to accomplish the unthinkable directly in enemy territory.
“They don’t think we can do this,” said Joyce. “But if we do this then they’re going to be shocked.”
If Western pulls off the upset, they would then play the winner of the other semifinal match between the Feildians and Mount Pearl.
Obviously, if Western is lacing up the cleats for the championship game, they’ll be riding a huge wave of momentum while doing so because it will mean they knocked off the league’s top team along the way.
In fact, it’s almost conceivable for the team to be so focused on the semifinal match, that the championship game itself could even be a bit of an emotional letdown.
Not a chance, said Joyce.
“The final is the biggest game,” he said matter-of-factly. “No matter what.”