By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
As one of the few veterans left from Grand River’s run toward an OFSAA medal, Laura Scholtz was nervous.
With only three Grade 12s returning from a fourth-place finish at the 2011 OFSAA quad-A championships, the Renegades had to look for youth to fill in the ranks for their WCSSAA and CWOSSA title defence this season.
After the first practice, Scholtz was preparing for a long season.
“I was expecting a complete disaster in our first game, because the practice before that, there was nothing going on,” said the fourth-year starting goalkeeper. “But after that first game (a 6-0 win over Bluevale Collegiate), I was in awe. I was completely impressed.”
The Renegades haven’t slowed down since.
Despite dressing four Grade 9s, a Grade 10 and three Grade 11s as starters, Grand River’s girls soccer team hasn’t missed a beat with the end of the WCSSAA regular season almost in sight.
Four games into the season — and ahead of Thursday’s anticipated CWOSSA championship rematch with Waterloo Collegiate — and the Renegades (3-0-1) were tied atop the table in the Blue Pool with Forest Heights.
With WCI trailing by two points as of Wednesday, the Renegades head into the final week of regular-season play with crucial games against fourth-place Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate (2-1-1) and Sir John A. Macdonald left.
The top two teams in each pool advance to the May 17 quarterfinals, while the next four teams in each pool advance to the May 15 qualifying round.
This isn’t exactly what the Grand River coaching staff was expecting after losing the heart of a team that medalled at the 2011 OFSAA tournament and came within a couple of goal posts of qualifying for the championship final.
Last season, the Renegades were packed with solid all-around athletes led by fifth-year players Brogan Marshalsey and Laura Teminski.
However, as the coaching staff has learned, this year’s rookie crop is filled with just as much potential — maybe more.
“The young ones are really aggressive, which is a bonus,” head coach Brian Millar said. “And I think they may be more skilled than last year.”
Plus they will have their game-breaker back by the playoffs.
Leticia Skeetes played her second game of the season on Tuesday and helped the Renegades power to a 7-1 win over Cameron Heights Collegiate.
The talented Grade 11 striker, an outspoken and respected team-leader, is balancing a heavy practice schedule in Vaughan with the Canadian Soccer Association’s national training centre in the hopes of latching on with Canada’s under-17 World Cup team.
“She’s something else,” assistant coach Gillian Huffmon said. “I’ve never known her to be at a loss for words.
“She’s motivating and she’s non-stop energy.”
But Skeetes wasn’t expected to be available on Thursday for what Huffmon said was the team’s “litmus test” against a Vikings side featuring plenty of returning players.
However, Scholtz believes the Renegades will be just fine.
Although acknowledging that Skeetes is a “great leader with an even greater personality,” and gives her teammates more room to maneuvre with her captivating skill, the team dynamic is a lot different this season.
The regular season has been about allowing the young players to settle into their roles and their teammates. Once that is accomplished, they hope to make some noise in the playoffs, especially with two OFSAA berths available to the CWOSSA finalists.
“I think we’ve exceeded expectations already,” Scholtz said. “I think we have a pretty good chance this year and I think it’s pretty safe to say we would like to make it to the WCSSAA and CWOSSA finals.”