W-League runners-up return with a Fury

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

From the moment they fell one victory short on a steamy August night in New Jersey, the target for 2006 became crystal clear.

The Ottawa Fury has seen enough of the bridesmaid's garb.

Time, indeed, to take the final step toward the altar.

"Clearly, that's the goal (this season)," Fury GM Chris Roth said of winning their first W-League soccer championship.

As the Fury players assemble this week to begin preparations for their May 27 season opener at Keith Harris Stadium vs. the expansion Hamilton Avalanche, there's little doubt about what's foremost in their minds.

After placing fourth, third and second the last three years at the W-League's Final Four tournament, the Fury knows only a championship will provide a satisfactory finish in 2006.

The 15 returnees from last season haven't forgotten the sting of a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Wildcats in the '05 league final.

Even the newcomers have caught the championship spirit.

"They have a great desire to take the final step," said Roth. "They're very motivated and very focused."

Midfielders Zoe Avner and Stacey Stocco -- both former standouts with the Boston Renegades -- bolster the 2006 roster. So, too, does ex-Atlanta Silverbacks forward Carrie Kveton.

Perhaps the most important addition comes on the last line of defence. Leisha Alcia, who pitched 10 shutouts in 12 starts for the Fury in 2004, returns to the squad after a season with the Hampton Roads Piranhas. It's a key signing, given the fact that Taryn Swiatek remains in the national team pool and Erin McNulty is now the starting 'keeper for the Canadian under-20 side.

With offensive stalwarts such as Kelly Parker, Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson back in the fold, the Fury will score goals.

Bushels of them.

"On paper, we're stronger than last year," said Roth.

But the path to a title will be more difficult, if for no other reason than the Fury will have to go through the mighty Wildcats just to represent the Eastern Conference in the league championship tournament in Vancouver (New Jersey was the host team a year ago). And the Wildcats, as noted in this space last week, got even stronger by signing Nepean native Charmaine Hooper, one of the world's top footballers.

"It will be a very difficult challenge," admitted Roth of the W-League title quest. "But the girls are ready for this. They definitely know what they need to do.

"Now it's just a matter of getting it done."

For this crew, nothing else will do.

ON THE BEAM: The Ottawa Gymnastics Club enjoyed that heavy medal feeling at the Eastern Canadian championships in Hamilton last weekend. Amy White won the women's all-around title and anchored Ontario's gold-medal winning team in the Open 4 category. On the men's side, Michel Grinter won the all-around crown in the Open Level 6 class and was also part of the silver medallist team. In Level 3 (10-12 years), OGC's Jackle Spriggs placed third overall and earned gold in the team event. On trampoline, Camylle Borza, John Martin and Mark Adams helped Ontario to the team gold. Borza added the all-around title in Level C (under 12 years).

BACK ON THE SLOPES: Turin Olympians Patrick Biggs of Orleans, Ryan Semple of Ottawa and Jean-Philippe Roy of Gatineau have been named to the Canadian alpine men's ski team for the 2006-07 World Cup season. Cumberland's Jonathan Robert has a spot in the men's development group.

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: Three female judokas from the Takahaski Judo Club -- Francoise Nguele, Carol Nhan and Christine Takahashi -- are part of the Ontario team headed to the Canadian senior championships next weekend in Winnipeg.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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