August 2, 2007 Toronto Lynx/Toronto Lady Lynx 2007 Season Wrap-Up (from Lynx media release)
TORONTO LYNX/LADY LYNX 2007 SEASON WRAP-UP
The Toronto Lynx Soccer Club closed the books on another strong season this weekend when the Lady Lynx’ season came to an end at the Eastern Conference Finals tournament in Ottawa. The Lady Lynx again distinguished themselves as one of the elite women’s team in the entire continent, while the Lynx made a successful transition to the Premier Development League and laid the foundation for years of future success in North America’s top male player development league. The Toronto Lynx Juniors male and female teams continued to excel on the pitch through the Super-Y League, developing and grooming talented youth players for future Lynx and Lady Lynx teams and other professional opportunities.
LADY LYNX FINISH STRONG
The Lady Lynx, with a host of new faces, opened their regular season strong, recording four straight shutouts to jump atop the Northern Division. The young team, however, was unable to overcome their bitter rivals, the Ottawa Fury, recording 2 losses and a tie against their nemesis in three matches, with the Fury claiming the Northern Division title. However, with each match between the two rivals, the Lady Lynx inched closer and closer to earning their elusive first win over the Fury. In the end, the Lady Lynx gutted out a hard-fought and immensely exciting 1-1 draw in the last game of the season on July 21 against the Laval Comets at home and earned second place in the division. As a result, the two teams then met four days later back at Centennial Park Stadium, and the Lady Lynx recorded a thorough 3-1 victory over Laval, earning Toronto a trip to Ottawa for the Eastern Conference Finals. In their first match, the Lady Lynx met the powerful Washington Freedom, champions of the Northeast Division. The Freedom joined the W-League this season from the now-defunct WUSA women’s professional league with an experienced roster made up of American national team players and veterans of the 2003 WUSA Championship squad. The youthful Lady Lynx fought hard in the match, but eventually fell 6-1 to Washington, which claimed the Eastern Conference title the next day with a 1-0 victory over the host Ottawa Fury.
"I'm proud of how the team played today and all season all season," said Lady Lynx head coach Danny Stewart after the playoff defeat. "Today was a tough game against a very experienced team, and our girls played very well despite the scoreline. We gained a lot of experience today though, and we will use it to our advantage next year. We went one step further this year than last and we will use today to build towards taking the next step in 2008."
Lady Lynx players were once again recognized by their peers around the USL through the annual W-League Awards. Forward Adrienne Ruhe Lischke was named U19 Player of the Year by the league, and along with defender Lexi Marton was named to the All-Eastern Conference Team after an outstanding rookie season. Marton, in her second season with the team, was also one of the three finalists for U19 Player of the Year Award. Kitchener’s Ruhe Lischke led the attack for the Lady Lynx in her rookie season with 8 goals, while Marton, the team’s youngest player, served as team captain and inspired her teammates with her solid and stellar play throughout the season as the anchor of the Toronto defense. Ruhe Lischke was also named 2007 Toronto Lady Lynx MVP by local media for her efforts, while Marton earned the Best Defensive Player Award. Stefania Morra, who chipped in 6 goals in her debut season, was named Lady Lynx Best Offensive Player, while midfielder Tina Romagnuolo, who was a standout at midfield throughout the year, earned the Rookie of the Year Award. 2006 W-League Goalkeeper of the Year Justine Bernier was again solid in net for the Lady Lynx, and her outgoing demeanour and dazzling play earned her the Fan Favourite Award as voted by the fans.
SUCCESSFUL DEBUT FOR LYNX IN PDL
2007 marked the debut for the Toronto Lynx men’s club in the Premier Development League (PDL) after ten memorable seasons in the United Soccer Leagues First Division. The PDL is North America’s highest amateur men’s league and provides a professional environment for elite amateur and college players to develop and showcase their skills as they prepare for professional careers in North America and beyond. Taking full advantage of the wealth of local talent available, the Lynx roster was made up exclusively of homegrown players from all areas of the GTA, including a slew of graduates from the Toronto Lynx Jr’s Super-Y League program.
The Lynx were slotted into the Great Lakes Division of the PDL, which has long been reputed as the toughest division in the entire league. The division featured the Michigan Bucks, 2006 PDL Champions, and the Chicago Fire Premier, last season’s division and Central Conference champions, a feeder club for the powerful MLS club. Toronto kicked off the season early, and missing a number of projected starters as they finished their school years, struggled out of the gate. A loss and a tie to the West Michigan Edge on the team’s opening weekend indoctrinated the Lynx to the high level of play in the division, and gave the team inspiration and rebound to record a thrilling 2-2 tie in their next match on May 25 against the vaunted Fire Premier squad in front of a large School Day throng at Centennial Park Stadium. The team then dominated the defending champion Bucks in their next match, but were unlucky to lose 2-1. History was made, though in the Lynx’ next start when they topped the Indiana Invaders 2-0 on the road to record their first-ever PDL victory. The club capped off their season with a stunning 3-1 victory over Michigan, giving the division-champion Bucks their only home loss of the year. The club eventually finished the season with a 6-6-4 record, good for fourth place in the division and only a mere 6 points short of a playoff berth.
While the Lynx missed the post-season, it was a very successful debut for the team in the PDL. The team quickly established itself as one of the elite programs in the division, with a pair of ties over the Fire Premier, and its resounding victory over the Bucks in the season finale created a strong foundation for the club to build upon for next season. The young roster of entirely local players gained invaluable experience, and a new crop of Lynx Jr Academy graduates will join the ranks next season. The Toronto Lynx U20’s qualified for the North American Finals after placing second in their division, and many of its stars will suit up for the PDL squad in 2008.
Forward Murphy Wiredu emerged as the season progressed as one of the elite strikers in the PDL. After failing to find the net in his first seven PDL games, the Brampton native went on a tear to finish the season, notching 10 goals in the team’s final nine games, an astonishing strike rate at any level. He was rewarded when the Lynx presented their annual Player Awards prior to their final home game, being named Best Offensive Player. Bolton’s Erik DiLorenzo was named Best Defensive Player for his outstanding play at the back, while Morriston’s Jamie Fairweather was selected by the fans as the Fan Favourite Award winner for his rock steady defensive play and dazzling offensive forays. Mississauga’s Justin Hay, who was injured and did not play all season, was named Public Relations Award winner for his selfless work in the community despite his injury. Kitchener’s Alex Ruhe Lischke, tough and tenacious in defense, made it a clean sweep of the MVP awards for his family when he was named 2007 MVP by the media, joining his sister Adrienne who claimed Lady Lynx MVP.
“We made great strides as a club this year.” said Head Coach Duncan Wilde. “While we didn’t make the playoffs, we proved to the PDL that a roster of local players can compete with the best teams in the league, and with a little more experience behind us, we will be extremely successful in the league. Our Junior Lynx players are moving up through the ranks and joining the PDL roster, and other great Ontario players will want to come home from school and play for the Lynx in the summer so that they can be part of the success and develop in the best possible environment.”
LYNX GOODWILL CONTINUES OFF THE FIELD
Soccer ruled in Toronto in 2007, through the FIFA U20 World Championships, the inaugural season of the National Stadium and Toronto FC, and the continued presence of the USL hierarchy of play through the Lynx, Lady Lynx and Junior teams. The niche market developed by the Lynx stayed strong and continued to draw loyal supporters as demonstrated by fan attendance at home games. The Lady Lynx ranked second in attendance in the entire W-League, with an average of 1224 fans per match, including a high of 2,254 screaming young fans on the team’s annual Youth Day match when the Lynx host youth groups from Community Centres, Camps, Summer Schools. In the PDL, the Lynx attracted the 4th-highest attendance in the League with an average of 1,198, peaking at 3,013 on their Youth Day. Throughout the year, scores of area youth soccer clubs, community groups and local fans were entertained and enthralled by the high level of soccer showcased at Centennial Park Stadium.
The Toronto Lynx off-the-field activities kicked off in March with the highly popular and much anticipated Tim Hortons Coaches Clinic, held this spring at Astro Sportsplex in Vaughan. Several hundred coaches from GTA youth clubs and schools gathered for a free soccer coaching clinic as presented by the Toronto Lynx and Lady Lynx coaching staff, generously presented in conjunction with corporate partner Tim Hortons. A second clinic is scheduled to be delivered this fall on September 29th at the Sportsdome at Wild Water Kingdom, with full details being released shortly.
As a testimonial of the tremendous goodwill that the Lynx and Lady Lynx have established over the years, the Lynx continued to provide mentorship programs through Youth Soccer Club Partnerships in Southern Ontario. The Lady Lynx, for example, through a partnership with the Pickering Soccer Club, staged an exhibition match in July taking part in the “Celebrating Durham Women in Soccer” charity event to raise funds for the YWCA Women’s shelter in Pickering. The team played an exhibition match against a Pickering U21 all-star squad, signed autographs and took part in a meet-and-greet with their young fans.
The Lynx were active in many other venues throughout the year, including the delivery of clinics/social skills contests/meet and greets at the CHIN picnic and the Canadian Cancer Society 24-Hour Relay at Centennial Park. Players and coaches also provided clinics and educational presentations to schools, community centres and youth clubs throughout the GTA to mentor and inspire aspiring young soccer stars.
Hundreds of youngsters took part in expanded sessions of the Toronto Lynx Fantasy Camp Program which continued in full force in 2007. In response to popular demand, the club added sessions in Waterloo (Rim Park) and Mississauga (Clarkson), along with traditional sessions in Etobicoke (3 sessions at Centennial Park) and Scarborough (L’Amoreaux Park). Young boys and girls had the opportunity to further develop and enhance their soccer playing skills through the experience and inspiration of the Toronto Lynx/ Lady Lynx players and coaching staff. The camps provided the unique combination of fun, learning and the chance to train with some of the finest soccer players in Canada.
TORONTO LYNX JUNIORS THRIVE IN THE SUPER-Y LEAGUE
The Toronto Lynx Jr program continued to thrive and excel in 2007 in the Super-Y League, with two teams (U20 and U17 boys) claiming spaces in the North American finals, and the U16 girls narrowly missing out. The club fielded a record 6 entries this season, with U15, U16, U17 and U20 boys in addition to U15 and U16 girls. The teams are experiencing unprecedented success on the pitch and will form the core of future Lynx and Lady Lynx teams. The Academy program, under the directorship of Duncan Wilde, will be holding tryouts in the very near future for spaces in their fall programs and for spots on the 2008 Super-Y League squads.
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