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Chill goalkeeper makes history

Joseph Ianni will play for the Ontario XCEL U14 red program in Markham this month.
Joseph Ianni is the first Thunder Bay Chill goalkeeper to be named to a Ontario XCEL squad.

THUNDER BAY – Joseph Ianni’s approach to soccer might be a little different from most players.

“A lot of kids dream of scoring the winning goal with a Cristiano Ronaldo bicycle kick or something like that,” Ianni said. “My dream is to stop it.”

The Thunder Bay Chill goalkeeper will get the chance to stymie some of the top under-14 players in the province later this month as he’s been named to the Ontario XCEL U14 Red team for a pair of games in Vaughan.

In making the team, Ianni has become the first Chill netminder to be named to the provincial squad.

“That was a pretty neat feeling when I found out that I was the first goalkeeper here to do that,” Ianni said.

Ianni is the sixth Chill player to be named to one of Ontario’s XCEL teams. U17 forward Alex Iossa and U15 centre-back Nathan Miller are also taking to the pitch for their respective age groups during the Victoria Day weekend.

Like his teammates, Ianni submitted video highlights from one of his games during the 2023 campaign before being invited to the XCEL camp in March.

“I honestly didn’t think too much about it after I sent the video in, but when I found out that I was going to the camp, I was shocked,” Ianni said.

“Once I found out that I was going, I put in a lot of work both on and off the field with my coaches here to get ready for the camp, and I talked to a couple of the older guys to learn about what the camp would be like before I went.”

While Ianni had been to Vaughan before and had experience competing on a big stage at the USA. Cup tournament in Blaine, Minn., last summer, the showcase camp marked the first time he had gone face-to-face with the best players from Ontario.

“A lot of those guys play in the OPDL (Ontario Player Development League) so a lot of them knew each other, but I was the new face there,” Ianni said. “So it was a little bit nerve-wracking when I first got there.”

It didn’t take long though for Ianni to feel at ease as he showcased his skills during scrimmages, with the highlight being an impressive save on a long-range shot.

“There was a guy coming down the right wing and I was on my toes getting ready because those guys were all shooting from pretty far out,” Ianni said.

“The guy took a shot from a couple of steps past the halfway line and I was able to tip the ball over the net as it was diving just under the crossbar.”

Now that he’s made the team, Ianni is working hard to get ready for the games in Vaughan on May 18 and 19.

He and the rest of the Chill are back to playing outside this week, which will allow him to get used to playing in an 11 vs. 11 environment before going up against the top players in the province.

“After I came back from the tryouts, I felt a lot more confident, especially now that I made the team,” Ianni said.

“Now I just want to keep building on that and keep going in the right direction for the rest of the season.”

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