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U13 Impact girls shoot for provincial title after undefeated season

The so-far unbeaten team is ready for a showdown at the top-tier provincial championship later this month.
The undefeated St. Albert U13 Impact team shows off their gold medals from the BTB Spring Cup tournament. CATRINA OWEN/ Supplied

The St. Albert U13 Girls Tier 1 Impact soccer team is on a hot streak, turning heads in the soccer community with an undefeated season.

With August upon us, the group is gearing up to compete at the U13 Tier 1 Provincials tournament in Edmonton, which gets started Aug. 24.

With an impressive record of 10 wins, two draws, and zero losses, the Impact group finished the season with an extraordinary 59 goals for, while conceding only seven goals against. 

"We are a 2010-based team that has been together for many years," said veteran coach Grant Nicol.

"Eight players have been on the team since they were eight or nine years old. From very early on, we have focused on individual skill development over results in standings. This philosophy has paid dividends today."

Nicol has always been a firm believer in promoting a possession-based style of play. From the start, he encouraged his team to keep control of the ball rather than play it safe.

"We were less tactical when they were young," he said.

"We focused on keeping possession of the ball rather than just smashing the ball up the field.”

This philosophy, Nicol said, allowed the girls to develop the chemistry and skills that have proven so instrumental in their recent success.

Yet, this success didn't come easy.

"I would not say it was always smooth sailing," Nicol said, adding the team had to overcome one-goal games and rough matches that caught them off guard.

The team has learned and improved from those tough experiences, Nichol said, attributing the remarkable goal ratio to their emphasis on attacking strategies and off-ball movements.

"We worked on finishing from all different parts of the 18-yard box and crossing the ball sooner rather than later, not allowing the opponent's defence to adjust," says Nicol.

"We also have an incredible defensive core, including our goalkeeper. The backline consists of tall, fast, physical and skilled players."

The Impact recently won gold at the BTB Spring Cup, a high-level tournament designed to facilitate competitive matches for player and team development. The team beat formidable opponents from Edmonton, Calgary, and Regina.

As they prepare for provincials, Nicol said the plan is for a gradual increase in training intensity.

Jeff Paulus, technical director of SASA has been running some of the teams technical training sessions throughout the summer, which the coach said will continue right up until provincials.

The team also aims to challenge themselves with friendly matches against U15 clubs.

Acknowledging the stiff competition they will face at provincials, particularly from the 2010 Calgary Blizzard, Nicol underscores the need for defensive shape, winning tight battles and races.

"They are fast, skilled and physical," he says. "That is the team we have to be ready to play."

Reflecting on the team's accomplishments, Nicol is justifiably pleased.

"I, and the rest of the coaching staff [Dustin Dancocks and Jeff Popoff], are very proud of the work these girls put in every training session, fitness session, academy session, and game."

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