Host Thunder return to OFSAA
The host Blessed Trinity Thunder are hoping to make some noise at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AAA girls soccer championships being held Thursday to Saturday at Southward Community Park in Grimsby.
The defending Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association champions will open play Thursday at 10:30 a.m. versus Resurrection followed by a 1:30 p.m. match against Bishop Allen Academy. The Thunder will conclude pool play Friday with games against St. Mother Teresa (8 a.m.) and Frontenac (12:30 p.m.) with hopes of earning a spot in the quarter-finals at 5:15 p.m. The semifinals will be staged at 9 a.m. Saturday followed by the bronze medal game at 12:30 p.m. and the gold medal game at 1 p.m.
Grade 11 student Keira Flus is excited to get started.
“We have a lot of talent. We have a lot players who came up from Grade 9 and we play well together,” said the Grade 11 student, who plays everywhere on the field for the St. Catharines Jets under-18 team but suits up at striker for the Thunder.
She was part of the Thunder team that didn’t make it to the quarter-finals at OFSAA last year.
“We had a lot of injuries at the time and our team was very short. I was partly injured myself but I learned a lot. I tried my best to play through it as much as I could and I did for the most part. I learned that if your team is down, no matter what you always have to still be there and show up as much as you can.”
She had issues with her quad and calves but got help from a chiropractor.
“It comes back once in a while but for the most part I had been fine this season,” Flus said. “I am super excited to play at OFSAA, especially not being injured and being able to show the skills I have and what I can bring. We have a real good team this year and we have a really good shot.”
Playing at home can only help.
“I think it is going to be a good advantage because we played at the same location at SOSSA. We are used to the field and the area.”
Flus is focused on the process more than the result this week.
“We are going to bring everything we have. We are missing a few players the first day due to a conflict but other than that, we are all going to show up as much as we can, work together to do our best and show what we’ve got.”
Thunder coach Megan Schweitzer described Flus as an aggressive player.
“She is a great forward to have, especially on the left side, and her speed is a huge asset.”
Teammate Olivia Tehrani, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student, is looking forward to her second crack at an OFSAA medal.
“What makes us special is that we have a lot of different ages working together. We have a lot of people from different clubs and different levels coming together to play as one. It is really special,” the centre midfielder said.
The Niagara International FC travel player sees one main difference from last year’s squad.
“I feel that we have a lot more going on in the middle. Obviously there are a lot of great new players and more talent and that has a huge impact. Getting a little bit more movement in the middle had made a huge difference.”
Last year at OFSAA was a learning experience.
“When it comes to playing at OFSAA, definitely having a healthy bench really helps winning. That is key but also for OFSAA you play so long and it is tough competition so you have to persevere, take it that extra mile and give it all you got.”
She too is not thinking about wins and losses.
“We want to work as a unit, be encouraging to each other and ultimately persevering as one,” she said. “I am looking to get closer with my teammates. In tough competitions like this, you honestly have to push each other and you grow closer to each other and bond more.”
Playing at Southward Park is a bonus.
“I think it’s a good thing. A lot of BT fans can come out and support us and that is exciting. It will get us pumped up.”
Schweitzer is pumped to have Tehrani on the team.
“Olivia has great footwork and she can read the field. When she sees an opportunity, she takes it. Her shot is also a great asset to our team along with her power and grit.”
Schweitzer likes the connection between her returning players and the rookies on the team.
“The girls are competitive and very determined to win,” she said.”I am excited to see them compete at OFSAA. I think home advantage will be a great experience for the girls. Their families, friends and the school community will be able to attend and cheer them on.”
She feels it is a privilege to coach the team.
“They are always positive and energetic on and off the field.”
Thunder coach Joe Pagnotta describes hosting OFSAA as a huge undertaking.
“Lots of staff and students have stepped up to join our organizing committee and volunteer at the event,” he said. “We have 14 staff along with 14 students assisting.”
Blessed Trinity decided to put forward a bid to host OFSAA when no other association had come forward.
“It was for the kids to ensure they had a provincial championship to take part in,” he said. “I am definitely looking forward to hosting schools from across the province to showcase the Niagara Region along with watching these amazing young athletes who are on the verge of playing soccer at the next level.”