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Soccer Squad Overcomes Absences to Claim Bronze

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The Niverville U11 Gladiators Ashley Lejeune

The Niverville U11 Gladiators soccer team came away from a recent tournament with a bronze medal, despite not having one of their coaches in attendance.

The Gladiators play in the Eastman Youth Soccer League. There are so many kids from the Niverville area in this league that there are actually four different Niverville U11 teams, all of whom participated in a tournament on June 25 in Beausejour.

The Gladiators’ regular coach, Chantelle Dueck, was unable to attend this particular tournament, leaving her young co-coach, Bella Arauz, to lead the team. Bella is the older sister to E.J., who also plays on the team and was one of the tournament’s leading scorers.

Bella is only 15 years old but handled the challenging day admirably.

“The boys did amazing,” she says. “They won almost all their games, only losing one game and tying one game. They did outstanding during the tournament. The way they all worked together and communicated was just outstanding.”

Lauren Kushner, mother of goalkeeper Brody Kushner, volunteered to help out as Bella’s assistant for the day. Kushner was very impressed with the Gladiators’ performance throughout the season and in particular at the tournament.

“They were third overall out of 24 teams and came away with a bronze medal in Pool A,” Lauren says. “So they did great.”

Their regular coach wasn’t the only team member absent that day. In fact, several players were also missing. The result is that the team had only one sub.

One consequence of the shortfall is that 10-year-old Brody had to play goalkeeper for the entire tournament.

“[Our team] had a lot of good players and really good chemistry between teammates,” says Brody. “Everyone was just really nice to each other”.

When asked why he likes soccer, Brody says that he just finds it a lot of fun.

“Getting a goal is the best feeling you could ever experience,” he says.

Last year’s soccer season was cancelled because of COVID-19 after the Gladiators played only one game. On top of that, this year’s team included two members who had never played soccer before. Nonetheless, they rose to the challenge.

Brody says the team loved having Bella as a coach.

“She’s really calm and not always screaming her head off like some coaches do,” he says.

His mother agrees. “She was very positive and made the boys believe they could do it.”

According to Bella, the main highlight of the tournament was seeing how happy the boys were when they won bronze.

“Overall I had an amazing time working with everyone and co-coaching the boys,” Bella says. “I would 100 percent coach the same group again!”

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