The Maples Monarchs under-15 boys’ soccer team is standing tall after netting its first outdoor championship.
The squad easily booted their way to victory at the 2013 Slurpee Cup Championship, posting a 1-0 victory over WFC (Schira) in the final game as part of an undefeated 5-0 romp in their class at the tournament, held June 20 to 23 and hosted by Winnipeg Phoenix FC in North Kildonan.
It’s an impressive turnaround, says team coach Scott McConnell, considering the team didn’t register a win at last year’s tournament.
"I push the boys to be the best they can be on the field. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter," said McConnell, who lives in The Maples.
"But when they give 100%, they win."
The Monarchs currently sit in third place with a 7-2-3 record in the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association U15B rec league. Playoffs run this fall.
Despite bringing home their first outdoor tournament trophy, the team has been perennial indoor champions, taking home the B-side crown in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
McConnell credits that success to a core group of about seven players that have stuck it out with the team since he began coaching it five years ago.
On top of that, McConnell says the players accept new teammates as if they’ve been playing alongside them since day one, all while embracing each other’s cultural background. McConnell notes the team’s 17 players could be one of the most culturally rich in the league — a mix of East Indian, Italian, Portuguese, Metis, Scottish, Filipino, German, and Jamaican youth playing side by side, stride by stride.
"They’re not isolating themselves. They’re all together," said McConnell.
"They don’t look at the colour of their skin or their nationalities. They look at each other like ‘That’s my teammate, giddy up!’"
Team goalkeeper Gurmandeep Kambo said the diversity is simply normal for the players, and deflected accolades back to his coach.
"He pushes us as much as we can at practice, even if it’s raining or cold," said Kambo, 14.
"He gets us ready for the games no matter what."
After playing midfield in his first year with the team, Kambo was able to convince McConnell to let him switch to goal. It was a change Kambo admits first made him nervous, but the switch-up has paid off. Kambo only let three balls sneak by him in the Slurpee Cup tourney (the Monarchs outscored their rivals 16-3), and only 10 goals in 12 games of regular season play.
"That said to me that Scott was a really good coach," said Kambo.
"He believes in everyone. He’s really accepting of everyone’s opinion, what they want, and what he wants. He’ll think of a good combination of both and whatever’s good for the team."