The members of Sigma's A1 squad hit the road earlier this year in search of a tournament win, but came back with something far more valuable -- an identity.

It made all the difference

The A1s went undefeated (11-0-1) to win an OSL U21 league title, reached the final four at the prestigious Score at the Shore showcase tournament in North Carolina, and made a key contribution to the Sigma senior men's OSL Regional championship season. The string of team successes came after a less-than stellar result on the road at the Adidas Potomac tournament in Maryland last spring.

However, to hear Sigma technical director Bobby Symrniotis tell it, a little adversity went a long way.

"They didn't make it past the group stage (2 wins 1 loss) in Maryland, but they came together, and everything took off for them from that point on," he said.

According to striker Ryan Lyn, who scored 16 league goals for Sigma in OSL play, when the team found its stride, there was no looking back.

"We've been training for so long, we got it down technically," he explained. "But tactically, we had to work at it. This year, with the conditioning we did, and knowing how we wanted to play, it really came together."

Putting his finger on it, Lyn says, is difficult. It just took time for the team to get used to each other.

"As a team in the pre-season, we got new players and we needed to bond. As the season went on, we came together, especially at the [Maryland] tournament. It was the first time we came together and played good soccer. We didn't get the results [at that tournament] but it was the way we were playing that was important."

At the Potomac tournament which was held in late May, Sigma fell in its opening game 2-0 to New Jersey's FC Copa Forza and was unable to get out of the group stage even though they followed up with impressive wins of 3-0 and 5-0. However, the team returned home and opened the OSL season and found another gear.

Forward Lucas Guerriero saw his team continue to improve, and like Lyn, saw it begin during their first road tournament of the year.

"I think we just slowly got better. Just playing more games. We went to Maryland, which really helped our chemistry. We had a bit of a rough time at the beginning of the year, said Guerriero. "After coming back from Maryland we did much better, and then North Carolina, improved that a bit more. And in the last push of the season, when we had our tougher games, I think that helped us a lot."

After a successful season, the majority of the A1s are entering their Grade 12 year. Sebastian Novais graduated and is currently starring for Ryerson University in the OUA.

For the bulk of the players, the focus will be on graduation and potentially taking their game to the university level.

"Academics are really important," said Guerriero. "You see some really good players that have to stop playing because of their academics. They don't get a chance overseas, you need a lot of luck. The university route is easier, but if you don't have the grades it is not an option. So I am glad Sigma coaches emphasize [academics.]

Guerriero is shooting for a scholarship.

"Academics are important to me. I have high standards for what kind of school I want to go to and I have good grades, so it is important to me," he explained.

Added Lyn: "It's a goal of mine to go to the next step. The process is long. There's school, soccer and work. You have to balance it all. But as it goes along, it has become a confidence thing the more you talk to [university coaches], the more you feel you've done the things you need to do to be successful."