The Ladysmith 49ers girls’ soccer team picked up some new jewelry this weekend — the gold medals around their necks. At the recent League Championship Tournament held in Nanaimo, the 49ers charged out of the starting gate with a 7-0 victory against Gabriola Island in their first game, and didn’t stop fighting until they were crowned champions.
A 2-0 semi-final shutout over the Oceanside Stormers on Saturday afternoon meant that the 49ers would face the Nanaimo Shockwave in the final game on Sunday. The championship contest was a closely-fought defensive struggle that could have gone either way, but two goals from 49er striker Chelsea Hall were enough to secure a 2-1 victory for the Ladysmith side.
The 49ers had defeated the Shockwave twice in the regular season, but both games were very close affairs, so 49ers coach John Battie wasn’t taking anything for granted in the tournament’s marquee game.
“They’re a great team, and anything can happen in the playoffs, so we knew we’d be in for a battle,” said Battie. “But we felt confident that our defense would see us through.”
Anchored by goalkeeper Mandy Monroe, the 49ers gave up only one goal in the entire tournament and withstood a furious onslaught from the Shockwave in the second half that nearly tied the game at two goals apiece.
“It was like watching a pinball game in front of our net for a good couple of minutes there,” said Battie. “They must have had six shots in a row that hit the post or a defender’s leg, but we stood strong and kept them out.”
“Aliyah Griffin and the rest of our back line were really the story of the whole season, allowing only 13 goals in 16 games and finishing the regular season with four straight shutouts. It gave us the confidence to move the ball up the field and create more scoring chances. We just maintained that strategy in the tournament, and it worked for us really well,” said Battie.
U15 Spartans Finish Fourth in Boys Tourney
A 4-1 victory early Sunday morning against the Oceanside Thunder put the U15 Spartans into the bronze-medal game against the Nanaimo Black Ops, who had beaten the Spartans 7-2 and 8-0 in the regular season. A tired but determined Spartans side was confident at kickoff, but the weather was literally on the Black Ops’ side. A storm front that moved in shortly after the game began blew strong winds and driving snow into Spartans players’ faces, and three goals were surrendered before halftime.
However, as the second half kicked off, the skies cleared and the sun came out. Without Mother Nature on their side, the Spartans had to rely on their team speed and ball control to get back in the game.
“We got a great left-footed goal from Kyle Kulak, and we had several heart-stopping near-misses in the second half, but we couldn’t overcome that first-half deficit,” said coach Mike Rankin.
Co-coach Rob Griffin had nothing but praise for the efforts of the Spartans defense, who shut out the Black Ops in the second half.
“Our goalkeeper Bradley Ciarniello made some great saves, including one on a penalty kick, and Josh Lemire ran like the wind to clear what looked to be a certain goal right off of our goal line,” said Griffin, whose team fell 3-1 at the final whistle to finish fourth overall in the tournament.
“We got a close result against a very strong team, and we won the second half of the game,” Rankin added. “We’re happy with what we accomplished.”
U15 Hurricane Girls Finish Fifth With Youthful Lineup
Even though they were missing half of the starting roster that saw them go undefeated in the regular season, the Cedar Hurricanes still managed to place a respectable fifth in the U15 Girls Tournament.
“We had six starters away at a volleyball competition, so we called up a bunch of young girls to play for us, and they did extremely well,” said coach Sandra Dick.
The Hurricanes’ only loss of the weekend was on penalty kicks, after a game ended tied in regulation time.
“We went undefeated in the regular season, and undefeated in regular play in the tournament. It was a great year.”
Ladysmith Vipers Give it Their All
Two straight losses put the Vipers U13 boys out of the tournament Saturday, but their work ethic couldn’t have been better, said coach Garth Buffie.
The Vipers took a 5-0 loss to Nanaimo in their first game and narrowly missed the mark with a 3-2 loss in game two.
Ladysmith Avalanche Take Bronze in U13 Girls Tourney
The Ladysmith Avalanche finished the U13 Girls’ Championship Tournament on Sunday with a resounding 6-1 victory over Oceanside in the bronze-medal game. Coach Kathleen Nicholls was just glad her players had some gas left in the tank.
“We had three games on Saturday, and two of them were in the rain. But the girls are extremely fit, and we had plenty of energy in our final game,” she said. “We placed third at last year’s tournament, and third again this year, so it’s good to see that we’re keeping pace with the Nanaimo and Oceanside teams.
“We’ll be moving up to join the 49ers and Hurricanes at the U14-15 level next year, so it’s going to be great. Mid-Isle teams had a fantastic season this year.”