The Male 16U Manitoban soccer team performed quite well at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). The squad that saw four Portagers suit up was just one win short of a podium placement, as they lost the bronze medal match 4-0 to Saskatchewan.
Centre-back Luca Tornato says he'd never competed in conditions like that before.
"It was a lot different. The turf was artificial, and it was really hot out. It was definitely a higher level of competition than I'm used to. There were a lot of people who played for clubs and stuff," Tornato continues. "It was tough, but overall, it was really fun."
Tornato represented Portage la Prairie with Addison Page, Tyler Huber, and Connor Melnic. He says it was much easier to feel comfortable with a few familiar faces sharing the field.
Manitoba started the NAIG with a bang as they won their first two contests. In their 2-1 victory over Saskatchewan, Tornato took things into his own hands.
"I was on defence, and we were tied 0-0 for the first half. So, the coach moved me up to striker, and within ten minutes, I put one in the net," Tornato explains. "I couldn't even tell you how I felt. Everybody huddled around me and started jumping and cheering. They put one in our net after that, but we didn't give up. I got another one late, and that secured our win."
The squad only scored four goals throughout the entire tournament. Two of them came by Tornato in that one game. He says scoring the second goal was even better than the first. Tornato was named the MVP of the game and got to keep the game ball. While he doesn't have a spot in mind to put the ball, he says he'll have to put up a shelf for it.
Tornato has never played organized soccer, but after this experience, he plans to sign up next year.
"(My confidence) increased so much. After the first game, I was probably the most vocal on my team. I was just telling everybody where they needed to be and everything."
The 15-year-old is extremely proud of what he was able to accomplish in Halifax.