The U11 MId-Isle Whitecaps capped their soccer season off in fine style by winning bronze at the year-end tournament March 2-3 in Parksville.
“The season was really a pleasure to co-coach with Rob Griffin, this group of boys improved every practice and game throughout the season,” says co-coach Aaron Lafontaine. “The year-end tournament in Parksville is where they showed the best of their skills, and every player played hard in every game.”
The Whitecaps opened the tournament by defeating the Nanaimo Czech Repubic, a team Lafontaine says was the favourite to win. The Whitecaps got out to a commanding 3-0 lead int eh first half of the game and then fought off a second-half barrage of shots to win the game 3-2, according to Lafontaine.
In the second game, the Whitecaps beat Nanaimo Spain — a team that Lafontaine says, “played hard and really gave our boys a challenge” — 3-1.
After two victories, the Whitecaps finished as the top seed in their group and moved on to the round of six on Sunday, March 3.
“Our first game was at 9 a.m. — special thanks to all the parents who got up early Sunday morning to get the kids up to Parksville by 8:30 a.m.,” said Lafontaine.
The Whitecaps beat Nanaimo Italy 2-0. Aidan Kirkham earned a shutout, and Lafontaine says Riley Lang was also “stellar” in night, as both goalies played their best soccer.
The Whitecaps followed that up with a 2-1 loss, and they finished third in the tournament.
“Our last game on Sunday was lost by a score of 2-1 and our boys played their hearts out to try and make the gold medal game,” said Lafontaine. “They were rewarded with the bronze medal and showed us all that Ladysmith has produced some top-notch soccer players.”
During the tournament, Blake Crocker, Riley Lang, Nathan Ashe, David Paisley, Luke Griffin, Riley Byrne, Liam Pakosz and Elwyn Thom led the Whitecaps’ offensive charge as forwards.
“Our defense was nearly unbeatable and was held strong by Luke McAuliffe, Aidan Kirkham, Colin Murcheson, and Jacob Parkinson,” said Lafontaine.
Ryan Evans was unable to play in the tournament, but he was dedicated throughout the season and also improved during the year, he added.
“The boys played the tournament like true sportsmen and represented Ladysmith in a way that made us very proud,” said Lafontaine. “Luke McAuliffe and Colin Murcheson were solid as they held the defensive line against the league’s best players. Our offense was lead by Liam Pakosz, who scored four goals. Luke Griffin scored a goal and added three assists, and Blake, Riley Lang and Nathan all scored two goals each.”
Lafontaine expressed special thanks to all the teams involved in the tournament and all the players, fans and coaches. He also thanked Oceanside for hosting a great tournament.
The U14/15 Mid-Isle Spartans also celebrated a recent success as well, as they advanced to the Island Invitational Cup Finals.
The Spartans, coached by Rob Griffin and Rob LaJeunesse, earned the chance to represent the Upper Island at the tournament with a narrow 1-0 victory over Oceanside on Feb. 24.
The game was “a defensive struggle throughout, with only Jake Griffin’s strike in the 20th minute making the difference,” according to the team’s website.
Griffin’s goal was set up beautifully by passes from Colton LaJeunesse and Chris Brogan. Spartans’ goalkeeper Ben Pakosz made a number of excellent saves to preserve the shutout.
“This game was all about defence,” said coach Rob Griffin. “They’ve got a great team there in Oceanside, and they’ve had our number all year, but our guys stood tall and played great today. Kyle Kulak was the man of the match for me today — he’s normally a striker, but he fit in well with our defensive line, and they all held firm out there. We had excellent possession, and our passing game really paid off. I’m very proud of these boys.”
The Spartans will travel to Victoria April 28 for the Island Invitational Cup Finals. The Island Invitational Cup is a tournament that showcases the best teams of the Upper Island District against the best of the Lower Island District, and the tournament has been held annually on Vancouver Island since 1964, according to the Spartans.