GUELPH/ERAMOSA – The Rockwood FC U21 ladies soccer team won in the Ontario Women’s Soccer League on July 25.
Most of the team has been together since the age of U9 girls. They were originally a team of Guelph ‘B’ players.
The technical director at Guelph at the time told current U21 coach Sean Clarke that the girls would “never be good enough to move up to the ‘A’ team.”
The following season all of the players and Clarke left and moved to Rockwood FC.
Clarke told the Advertiser the women’s team this year had to win its way up to that division.
It first won the district level and then the regional level, which the team has done a few years in a row.
After winning regionally, the team then applied to play in the Ontario Women’s Soccer League.
“And then we won that our first year in it, and now [the team has not] lost yet,” said Clarke.
Many of the girls on the team told the Advertiser they are all like family to each other now.
Emma Mussell has played soccer since about the age of four but is one of the newer team members.
“I haven’t been on this team as long as other people have been on this team,” she said.
“But I know this group has been together for a really long time. And this group of girls works really well together.”
She added, “I think that our teamwork and ability to play as a team has really helped us with this accomplishment.”
Carmen Meijer joined the team when she was in Grade 9 after having a more negative experience with her previous team.
“Coming here was so refreshing,” Meijer explained.
She added she loves soccer and it provides a good release for her from day-to-day life.
Autumn Marshall was introduced to the Rockwood FC team after Clarke came to one of her house league games. She said she began soccer a bit later than others, but had the opportunity to play and tryout with the team is she now on.
Marshall explained she stuck with soccer because of the team aspect, noting she used to participate in gymnastics, which is a lot more independent.
“And then coming together as a team, meeting some of my best friends now” – Marshall paused before adding she enjoys the sport and its “good fun and exercise.”
Tessa Arulampalam has been part of the Rockwood team since it began in Guelph. She said many of the girls on the team have surrounded her for such a long time.
Arulampalam said winning the Ontario Women’s Soccer League filled her with “a very proud feeling.”
“Coming into such a challenging week, we came out very successful,” she stated.
Clarke said Rockwood FC has a strong program with ex-professional coaches who train teams and players.
The U21 team, before they were U21, had a few years where they struggled moving over. Clarke said they continued to work hard along with mandatory training programs.
The team went on to win the district league in 2017, three years after moving to Rockwood FC.
This is when Clarke said their journey really began moving up to the regional league — which he added is one of the strongest leagues for soccer in the area.
That year the team won the regional league and now has well over 20 trophies and six league championships. They also won the regional league in 2022 as an under-18 team playing in the under-21 division.
This year the team moved up to the Ontario Women’s Soccer League and when the team spoke to the Advertiser, they had already secured the league with two games remaining and did not lose a match – not to mention only having six goals against all year.
“I was surprised when they won the U21 division in 2022 that they would all come back to play [this year] with summer jobs and boyfriends,” said Clarke.
He added the team has since welcomed four new players and they are now over-rostered with 21 players.
“This team has built itself a very good reputation that a lot of players over the years have tried out for and want to be with the team,” Clarke stated.
The U21 currently trains with technical director Gareth Davies and coaches Cynthia McQueen, Giorgio Pozzobon and Clarke.
They also train with the U15 girls on a regular basis, mentoring them throughout their soccer journey as well.