Now about the actual soccer seasons that I have experienced: I really have two different experiences with league play. I have played in two different leagues: NISL and PAC. Now NISL stands for Nipawin Indoor Soccer League (I think I mentioned that in my first entry) and PAC stands for Prairie Athletic Conference (I think), and these are two totally different leagues. NISL is a fun league that is locally run and has teams from Nipawin and Tisdale come out every Tuesday to play. It is organized by volunteers and is a great way to get out of the homework routine and into a physically fit specimen in no time at all. I have played in this league for two years now, once as the keeper for Expired Milk and then this year as the keeper of the Screeching Eels. Yes, two totally different teams in all respects, but I managed to play with one of my original teammates this year: Joe Woodard. I will tell you more about him later.
Why were these two teams so drastically different? Well, Expired Milk finished second last for the league last year (we had the tie breaker at the end of the season) and the Screeching Eels finished third in the league this year and swept the sixth, second and first place teams in the playoffs to take home the trophy and the glory. Ya, drastically different, but they were both excellent teams to play on.
I guess I may as well tell you about the players on my teams. Besides myself as the keeper, the Expired Milk had eight players, and I will include a short bio on each of these players so that you know more information that you won’t need to know.
§ Hannah Wahlstrom: She played defence for us and did a decent job of it; got less scared of the ball as the year went on.
§ Brianna Shore: Played forward and filled in for me when I got hurt; she had to leave after the first semester to go and get married. I think she scored a couple of times if my memory serves me right.
§ Sara Beuckert: Played defence and was mighty fine at stealing the ball from opposing forwards. Probably one of the best female defenseman in the league.
§ Joe Woodard: The six foot five giant was also my king shot blocker. Many nights he came back to the dorm with soccer imprints and bruises. A rock defensively and one of the hardest workers in the league.
§ Austin Stickel: Played with us for the second semester and added much speed to the team. It also lightened the load on offense from Josh Ives, and they worked pretty well together.
§ Doug Robinson: Played only a few games because of an ankle injury, but he has a cannon of a shot and it’s pretty accurate as well. Won the shootout winner in a playoff match against Tisdale, officially putting us into the playoffs.
§ Jon Kullman: Played forward for us during the first semester before going back to B.C. He had a decent shot and was the one that grabbed the ball out of the air when Matt Thiessen smoked me.
§ Josh Ives: The offensive powerhouse for our team; also the quickest and hardest working for last year. Won the leagues Most Improved Player award last year and his teams MVP award this year. With out question, he deserved both.
So then, there is our team last year. Most of the time we played with one sub, so we got pretty tired after the two games we played. This was also thanks to our lack of experience, skill and knowledge of how to play the game, although by the end of the season we were the most improved team and played much, much better together. We had lots of fun and were cheered on greatly, which in turn made us play harder against opposing teams. Actually, we played some pretty close games throughout the year and nearly upset major teams, but we were overcome with weariness and yielded to their awesome skill.
My team this year was much more skilled (I hate to say that, but we were), as all of us had played soccer before. What’s that, who was on the team this year? Well, if I have to tell you…
§ Josh Braun: The MVP of the league and top-scoring player. He blocks tons of shots, can kick accurately and powerfully and never gives up on a play. Played defence and was dang good at it (did I mention he won the scoring title from defence!). Josh was also was the goon of the team.
§ Joe Woodard: Yes, the giant returns and is better than last year. He missed more games because of injury and illness, but he still blocked a ridiculous amount of shots and shut down some of the best players in the league with frightening consistency.
§ Jenna Clark: Got voted as the Best Defensive Female and deserved it more than anyone else in the league. Looks way too calm when she’s playing, but is slick and has a cannon of a shot.
§ Tim Schellenberg: One of the sneakiest ball handlers in the league and very quick. He can cut a ball in the total opposite direction without moving his body and set up many goals throughout the year.
§ Heidi Schellenberg: Wife of Tim and is a top-notch finisher. She is a one-time Top Female Scorer and would have had a good chance of doing it again this year if she hadn’t missed the first half season because she had a kid.
§ Jenny Out: Looks like she’s relaxed all the time and was one of the top women in scoring this year. She also can get the ball away from the opposite team without breaking a sweat and finishes quite well.
§ Travis ?????: A quick kid with a natural tendency to set people up after running the ball down. He also got his scoring touch when it mattered most: The end of the season and rode it into the playoffs.
§ Joel Friesen: The fearless captain of our PAC team and a great forward, he finished top five in the league in scoring. He also would set up in the corner and proceed to somehow get a perfect pass into the middle for someone to simply tap into the open net.
§ Aaron Kennedy: Probably one of the best defensive forwards in the game, he saved many games by coming back and stopping a shot that had “back of the net” written all over it. He also finished third on the team in scoring and would play defence with equal ease to offense.
Yes, our team was quite accomplished within NISL for the 2008/2009 season, doing better than we (or at least I) thought we would this year. I was hoping for a finish around the middle of the pack, but once we started to play I realized this team had grit and all-around skill that would do everything possible to win. However, I think that the greatest attribute of our team was that we were all sportsmen (and women!), considered by many teams I talked to as “their favourite team to play”. I felt honoured to play with these individuals and wish them all the best in their lives.
This brings me to my next and last section of my NISL story: Will I continue my career as a keeper when I return next year? Well, I must confess that I am not entirely sure what I will be doing as of next year when I go back to NBC for a third year. During the last PAC tournament in Millar, I must have blocked a shot awkwardly with my thumb, as it has been swollen ever since that weekend. Yes, two and a half months later I am still hurting from the last shot I had at clinching a PAC tournament title, which was halted by a strong Briercrest team. I actually went to the doctors about it after I got home from school, and he told me that my ligament in my thumb had detached from my bone and that it could take another 4-5 months to heal. However, I am sure that I have set that back from repeatedly using and abusing it at work. Yes, we shall see what unfolds, but as of right now, I would doubt a return to NISL in the fall.