For an inaugural year, Cavan’s Men’s Soccer Team is experiencing a remarkable year. They currently sit on top in the league standings in the Ontario Soccer League Central Region East. They are vying for a playoff spot in a tight race with two other teams, one of which is Peterborough City.
It was not easy to get here. When Alex Penello set his sights on starting a local men’s team, he faced many barriers. After testing the strength of his Cavan team with some exhibition games, he felt they were strong enough to leapfrog to the most competitive league available, where they would square off against Peterborough Men’s team.
Rather than embrace the idea of local competition, at first the city team fought the move with letters to the league arguing against the Cavan team’s acceptance. That didn’t work. Now both coaches seem to embrace the rivalry. Team members and coaches know each other well, and several Cavan team members were formerly part of the City team. Regardless of the history, Penello believes that tough competition improves a team’s performance, and he is happy to have his team competing at the highest level available.
Penello pushed for a Men’s team in Cavan because it is a natural next step for the wildly popular Maple Leaf Cavan Football Club, which he and his wife Angela help to establish. In 2007, Penello introduced competitive soccer to the local league and coached the club’s first competitive team which included two of his sons. They both moved on to play in Peterborough, at college and in the Toronto FC farm team, earning accolades as well as MVP titles for their performance.
Our local soccer club has grown by leaps and bounds, with more than 1600 registered players in recreational and competitive leagues this year. This success can be attributed to the efforts of a professional and dedicated group of volunteers, particularly those who have served on the Board of directors for many years, including Tammy Aucoin, Scott Poser, Derek Brown, Connie Danielsen and Angela Penello.
Alex believed that establishing a competitive men’s team was key to keeping competitive players in the club. The Cavan team includes many players Penello coached in their early years, players from Cavan’s U18 team last year, and some former city players who returned to play for him.
On June 30th with undefeated records, Peterborough and Cavan met for the first time on the field, with a crowd of 400 spectators there to see the action. Cavan came out on top with a score of 3-2 with a surprising strategy that caught their opponents off guard. Believing Cavan had gone off side, Peterborough players stopped their play. The goal drew wild roars on both sides of the competition, but for different reasons.
The Peterborough team will have another chance to make their point in the final game of the season which takes place at 9 pm on September 15th at Eastgate Memorial Park in Peterborough which happens to be against Cavan. This time the city team will have the edge, as the younger Cavan team will be missing four of its top players who will have returned to college, including Penello’s son Josh. No matter what the outcome, Penello is pleased with the team’s first season. It has confirmed his conviction that this roster of players is ready to perform at the highest level, and their competition would have to agree. KG