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Undefeated Woodbridge Find Championship Focus And Intent In Their Collective Strength

08/30/2018, 3:15pm EDT
By Jonathan Cheng

The team is full of individual talents capable of dazzling on the pitch, but fusing them into one entity proved to be a key concept in their road to glory.

2018 L1 Cup Champions, Woodbridge Strikers (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

Woodbridge Head Coach, Dave Porco (Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

When head coach David Porco tells his team to link up before every match, a look of excitement flashes across the faces of the Woodbridge Strikers as they lock arms before taking on the challenge ahead.

Together in a circle, the Strikers have only one goal on their mind: breaking their team record of 51 keep-ups.

At first, the team struggled with the task as they remained stationary in the exercise, but the team quickly started seeing results after moving as a cohesive unit.

The pre-game warm-up drill has been an instrumental component towards Woodbridge's success. Each juggle of the ball has helped the team craft a solid foundation of cooperation and concentration.

After a gruelling season, the Strikers now stand on the cusp of history. A win in the 2018 Championship Final after already claiming the 2018 L1 Cup would secure "The Double," immortalizing Woodbridge as League1 Ontario invincibles following an undefeated season.

The team is full of individual talents capable of dazzling on the pitch, but fusing them into one entity proved to be a key concept in their road to glory.

"It takes a team to win so they have to be locked in," Porco told League1 Ontario. "The communication is important, and the other aspect in the game is you have to move as a unit."

The fun nature of the drill shines through when trying to set personal bests, reminding defender Kira Bertrand of carefree days playing as a kid.  

"It brings us back to childhood—doing the fun stuff," Bertrand said. "It gets us hyped for the game."

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

Kira Bertrand (Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

The drill helped as a team-bonding exercise, especially with new players joining the squad this season. They quickly integrated fresh faces into the team as everyone worked together to achieve a goal, whether it was winning games or beating high scores.

Woodbridge's competitive nature urged the players to achieve loftier goals after every success, and each point earned developed teamwork in each of them.

But Porco is quick to remember that his team is more than just the 11 starters on the pitch. The head coach recalled a moment when he forgot to thank his bench players after a game, and he apologized profusely because the substitutes always provide energy to the team.

"When you come in, you have to give us life," Porco said. "It's not easy coming off the bench, to come in for 15 minutes sometimes."

The spark of life they bring is not just fresh legs late in a game, but an unconditional camaraderie fuelled by the pure enjoyment of each other’s company. The bonds between the players have been unbreakable, much like their 20-game undefeated streak in all competitions since 2017.

Time has flown by quickly for the team, even if some only joined months ago. Team captain Alyscha Mottershead lost track of the time spent with her new team-mates, whom she considers as integral members of the Woodbridge family.

"It feels like it's been seasons rather than weeks," Mottershead said. "There's no part of you that wants to keep them on the outskirts."

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

As the season ends on Saturday in the Championship Final against Durham United FA, Woodbridge is aware of the stakes on the line.

"We've kind of forgot what it's like to lose," Bertrand said. "We don't want to bring that in this year."

But Woodbridge can look back at everything they achieved this year as they took each game in stride. The lessons learned from linking up during their warm-ups translated smoothly into their efficient in-game demeanour.

"As things get more serious, you tend to focus on the seriousness of the game," Mottershead said. "An activity like that lets you relax before the game starts."

The alleviation of stress has helped Woodbridge focus on the task at hand in each game. Woodbridge will need to replicate their season form with clear eyes and minds, and full hearts with the trust that their teammates will do the same.

"They realize if they don't come out with the same effort that we've been doing every game, any team can win on the day," Porco said. "They're not taking it lightly."

Check out the 2018 League1 Ontario Women's Championship Final featuring Durham United FA vs Woodbridge Strikers on September 1 (3 p.m.) at the Ontario Soccer Centre (7601 Martin Grove Rd.). 

Live broadcast:

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