Nelson soccer is golden once again.
Chantal Gammie scored a hat trick as the Nelson Selects under-18 team defeated the Kamloops Blaze 3-0 to capture the Girls B Cup provincial gold medal Sunday in Kamloops.
“We played beautifully,” said coach Paul Burkart. “Best soccer we’ve ever played. It was just brilliant.”
The U18 girls team previously finished second three years in a row, including last year in Nelson as the host side. Gammie put an emphatic end to the silver streak with two breakaway goals in the 12th and 32nd minutes before capping her hat trick in the 37th. It might have been four goals but Gammie had one disallowed in the 33rd minute.
“We had a real goal scorer on our team with Chantal Gammie,” said Burkart. “She is a true striker. She wants the ball all the time because she wants to take somebody on and she wants to put that ball in the back of the net. It just brought that next level to our team this year.”
Nelson goalkeeper Hanna Quinn meanwhile earned the clean sheet, highlighted by a diving save in the 30th minute.
Two years ago a roster made up of mostly the same group of players won the U16 gold. Several players on the team now own a haul of medals split up between provincial play and high school competitions. Julia Burkart and Quinn each have five medals, while Grace Dehnel, Ashley Hall, Shianne Michalchuk and Bella Guderian have four apiece.
The U18 Selects went undefeated throughout the tournament en route to gold. They won their first two group games, which earned Nelson a first-round bye. On Friday Nelson edged Penticton Pinnacles FC 2-1, then hammered Victoria’s Bays United 5-1 on Saturday to advance to Sunday’s final.
“Everybody clicked this year,” said Burkart. “We had 16 players. I turn around and look at my bench and I’m thinking every one of those girls who played on that team could have started this year because they all came ready to play and just loved soccer.”
The tournament marks the end of Burkart’s coaching tenure. His daughter Julia is moving on to university, and he’s passing on the coaching torch as well.
Burkart has been coaching youth soccer for 13 years in Nelson, including five years with the group of players who just won gold.
“You want to get me emotional, you get me talking about my soccer kids,” he said. “It’s so funny because you deal with them as they grow up. … You’re dealing with them when they are just becoming teenagers to when they are off to go do their own thing at university and it’s incredible. These young little kids turning into young women. We’ve done it all. We’ve grown together.”
Other Nelson girls teams taking part in the tournament included U13, 14 and 16 squads. The U16 team just missed out on a bronze medal with a 3-2 loss to Kelowna United.
Meanwhile at the Les Sinnott Memorial Cup in Burnaby, the U18 Selects boys team went 2-1-0 in the group stage before losing the bronze 1-0 on a late goal against the North Coquitlam United Strikers.
Nelson also sent U13, 14, 15 and 16 boys teams to the competition.