Synergy succeeding as one

Richmond Synergy’s Ellie Reid breaks through the Surrey-Guildford defence as teammate Justine McCaskill steps up to provide additional support.  - sub
Richmond Synergy’s Ellie Reid breaks through the Surrey-Guildford defence as teammate Justine McCaskill steps up to provide additional support.
— image credit: sub

Richmond Synergy heads into the holiday break having lost only one of their first 15 games and sitting comfortably in top spot in the U15 Division of the Metro Girls’ Select Soccer League—five points clear of the second-place team in the regular season. But coach Ron Ng insists they’ve always been more focused on performance than results.

“We’ve had games where we’ve played poorly by our standards but still won. We’re not happy with that. We really believe that if we perform to the best of abilities the results will follow,” he says.

Synergy is an ideal moniker for a team that truly demonstrates co-operative qualities, so much so that Ng—in his second season as head coach—is hesitant to single out any player as being a particular catalyst.

“The truth of the matter is that each and everyone of them is a terrific representative of our team, our program and our city. I’m really proud of who they are and how they conduct themselves on and off the field.”

Goalkeepers Nicola Houle and Carmen Milne have shared six clean sheets so far this season and have the league’s second-best goals against average (0.80). Synergy’s backline of Jessica Folk, Emma James, Jessica Jones, Prabhleen Nagra and Jessica Zawada have been instrumental in both preventing scoring opportunities and initiating attacks.

The team’s engine room, says Ng, has been the hardworking and talented midfield of Aria Druker, Karina Jesson, Justine McCaskill, Hannah Partridge and Ellie Reid who have been critical to team’s ability to both win and keep possession of the ball. And up front Natalie Cooke, Riley Elmes, Varsha Gill, Alex Heroux, Claire Reynolds and Claire Siqueira have provided a consistent and constant threat to score at all times.

The players’ strong bond is further reflected in how they value hard work, which has helped them to overcome a myriad of challenges that every season presents. Ng says they appreciate how fortunate they are to be able to work with Richmond Girls’ Soccer Association staff coach Martin Bittengl (a former youth player and coach at FC Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic and holder of a Union of European Football Associations coaching licence) whose “refreshing and enthusiastic approach to the team’s training sessions,” coupled with high-performance training at the Richmond Olympic Oval and strength and conditioning sessions led by Fran Quintana, have significantly increased the players’ confidence and abilities.

“From a competitive standpoint we haven’t achieved anything yet. We would love to win the Metro Select League (to be decided in January), Coastal Cup (to be played in Richmond in April and May) and provincials (next summer),” Ng says. “But from a personal and development perspective, we’ve achieved a lot are continuing to learn more. We’ve learned to adapt and learn from new ideas and new approaches.”

Ng is a disciple of possession-style soccer, believing that’s the most enjoyable way to play the game and best for individual development. But he says the style demands that players utilize their skills and intelligence and rely on one another to gain and hold possession.

Playing to the team’s strengths, Synergy is particularly strong on the defensive side of the ball but Ng says that is greatly influenced by the emphasis on possession.

“We think that if we have the ball it’s unlikely the other team will score on us,” he says. “And when we do lose possession everyone works hard to get the ball back. We usually have well over 50 per cent of the possession in our games and some times it feels like it’s 70 or 80 per cent.”

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