Panthers soccer loaded with depth

The St. Peter’s Panthers have a player that can pass, shoot, dribble and defend at a high level and she’s surrounded by 10 more teammates that can do the same thing.

The senior girls soccer team is as strong and deep as any in recent years. Certainly for as long as any of these players have been at St. Peter’s.

“This year is fantastic,” said Panthers veteran Sydney Livermore. “It’s amazing and I’m so happy to be a part of it. We’ve had strong teams in the past, but everybody there wants to play and is on the same page. You have 19 players who play competitively. It’s the best group we’ve had so far.”

All but two of the Panthers are currently playing rep soccer, and that pair aren’t currently competing for a club team but had done so until this season.

“There’s a lot of talent,” said Panthers rookie Salena Devellis. “Most of the girls play rep outside of school, so we’re a higher-end team. We all have a lot of skill, so when we put that together, there’s a really good team.”

As is often the case with a senior high school team, the squad is made up mainly of girls in Grades 11 and 12. Devellis, who scored twice in last September’s Ontario Cup final victory for the Barrie SC Strikers, is the lone Grade 9 student on the squad.

“The girls have been very welcoming, even though I’m the youngest player and the only one at my age,” Devellis said. “They’re all very including of me, so it’s been pretty great. They’re very nice and very open.”

It doesn’t hurt that Devellis is able to come in and perform at the same calibre as her teammates, who can play anywhere on the pitch.

“Our (game knowledge) basically allows us to put anyone, anywhere,” Livermore said. “We can put a defender at striker and they’ll know how to play it. You can basically put any player on your bench onto the field and know that they can play anywhere. It’s a versatile team and it’s comforting knowing that.”

While some teams in the Catholic-school loop have girls that are either teammates or opponents of the Panthers in club soccer, most are hard-pressed to have the kind of depth that St. Peter’s carries. That allows the team to roll through players and keep everyone in peak condition.

“We’ll be able to have fresh legs on the field whenever we need to,” Livermore said. “We won’t feel like we have to keep somebody on because of there being a gap there. Everyone is able to play. You can get the subs in there and keep everyone going and going at a good pace, and that causes the other teams to fall down a bit because they won’t have the subs able to go at the same level as ours.”

But when you’ve got that many strong athletes that can play the game, it means good players won’t be starting.

“The intensity of practices (is) higher because you’re fighting for a spot,” Livermore said. “You don’t know for sure that you’re going to play and you have the fear in the back of your mind that somebody else may get to play, so you’re working harder.”

St. Peter’s does enter its training sessions a step ahead of its opponents, given the technical understanding its players already have for the game.

“We skip all of the small steps,” Livermore said. “We do our basic technical stuff, but from there, we can go right into the game aspect. We don’t have to work from the beginning, we’re working from a base we’ve built up from a number of years. With the excellent program that our coaches put in, it allows us to excel quicker in the season.”

Stephen Sweet photo: St. Peter’s midfielder Sydney Livermore approaches the ball in regular-season action.

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