It was a great night for Niagara Region high school soccer as the Niagara Knights men's and women's soccer programs hosted the 4th Annual Niagara Region Soccer Showcase. Played at Youngs Sportsplex in Welland, the top-86 high school soccer players from 22 Niagara schools, put on a demonstration of the elite soccer talent that exists across the Region.
The showcase consists of a two games, a girls' match competed at 6:00pm that is immediately followed by a boy's game. The event is designed to give the Region's best high school soccer standouts a chance to shine at the end of a grueling season. Every school with a soccer team in the Region is invited to send one player from their team, and 'blue' and 'white' rosters are randomly created.
"Our Knights program and OCAA are very competitive by nature, but The Beautiful Game is inherently inclusive and this showcase is run in that spirit" said Niagara Knights men's soccer head coach Frank DeChellis. "Every high school is contacted and has an opportunity to be represented. When twenty-two high schools say 'yes' you know something is going well."
In the girls' game Team Blue edged out a 3-2 victory. Team Blue's goal scorers were Kayla Bevaqua (Welland, Notre Dame) who notched a pair of tallies, and Emma MacNeil (St. Francis) who notched the game winner. Team White was represented on the score sheet by Annie Ibey (St. Michael) who recorded both her team's efforts. Bevaqua and Ibey were named MVPs of the game.
"I was impressed with the overall talent and caliber of the players tonight" said Niagara College women's head coach Rob Lalama who is entering his first year at the helm of the Knights. "They really put their skill on display. The Showcase has really blossomed into a top quality event."
The boys' game ended in a 4-3 decision for Team White, and featured a series of "highlight reel of goals" added DeCHellis. "The boys' game is always a chance for everybody to show off a bit, but they still come to play. In the end it was the players who pleaded with referee Ron Sutherland to play until there is a winner."
The game need extra time as the two teams were locked at three at the end of scheduled play. Some convincing by the participants lead to the game being settled in 'golden goal' over time with a tally from two-time showcase MVP Oti Frigole (Governor Simcoe). Frigole, notched two goals and was named MVP of Team White for the second consecutive year.
Nattie Dawit-Cote (Jean Vanier) and Dean Miller (Port Colborne) rounded out the Team White offensive attack.
On the Blue side, Ian Cushnie (Beamsville) notched a pair of goals, while Nathan Dunleavy (St. Paul) scored once. Matt Dellima (St. Paul) was named the Team Blue MVP.
Niagara Knights men's soccer assistant coach Rino Berardi, conceived the event back in 2014. Berardi feels that what makes the event so special is that it's "an opportunity to play with and against all the best high school players. Some of them only see each other on the field in this event."
In total 22 members of the Niagara Knights men's and women's soccer programs played in the first three showcases and the according to DeChellis "our coaches all agree that number will climb this September."