Though the Lakeside fields are still recovering from a long winter and outdoor play has yet to begin, several Nelson Youth Soccer rep teams traveled west to the Okanagan over the Easter weekend for the first tournament of the season.
The Okanagan Ice Breaker tournanament in Winfield is a traditional start to the season that matches local teams against stiff competition from larger centres like Kelowna, Vernon, Calgary and Kamloops.
Here’s a wrap on the weekend that included plenty of highs and lows for local players who took part in the event.
GREAT START FOR U12 BOYS
The Nelson Selects U12 boys got their 2012 season off to a terrific start at the Ice Breaker coming home with a silver medal.
The team started the tournament a bit tentative, dropping a 3-1 decision to Vernon United.
“The positive from that game was we felt we were just as skilled as Vernon, but they had more jump and energy, which translated to their victory,” said coach Kerry Dyck.
Urging the players to raise their effort level for the following games, Nelson did just that and came away with a 3-2 victory over Kelowna Wolf Pack and a 3-2 shoot out win over Kelowna Saints, following a 3-3 regulation time draw.
“We felt our guys were stronger than our opponents in both games, but our winter rust showed and we lost our way in the later part of both games,” said coach James Baxter. “We surrendered two late goals in both games that almost cost us, but fortunately we were able to prevail.”
The results propelled the Nelson team to the medal stages, where the coaches urged the team to maintain their focus and play strong right through to the end. In the gold medal game, the Nelson squad came up against a strong Kamloops Blaze team that had won all of its games to that point.
In the first half, Kamloops had the edge and came out with a 2-1 lead at half time. However, in the second half the Nelson boys responded to their coaches and reversed the trend of fading in the second half. They came out with a strong effort and dominated possession, generating numerous quality chances to even the score. Luck wasn’t on their side and despite their strong play to the final whistle, the Nelson team was unable to find the back of the net to tie the game.
Despite the loss, the Nelson coaches were very pleased with the silver medal result, noting that at this event last year, the team failed to record a single win.
“To a player the boys showed strong fundamental play upon which to build for this and future seasons, and our team was evenly matched against the best teams at the tournament,” said Jamie Spendlove, the SoccerQuest coach overseeing the U12 boys program.
The team was lead in scoring by Milo Baranyai-Sheppard with four goals, supported by Aidan Mushumanski, Jesse Thurston and Ezra Foy with a pair each and Jaden Dyck with one. Player of the game honors were received by Keeper Jacob Erickson, Josh Yasek and Mushumanski and Nelson tournament MVP went to Thurston for his strong defensive play.
IMPORTANT EARLY LESSONS FOR U15 BOYS
The Nelson Selects U15 boys squad didn’t win a game at the Ice Breaker, but the team certainly showed it’s on par with some of the best teams in the Okanagan.
“It was a very positive weekend for us,” said coach Chuck Bennett. “It is the first time playing outside and we use this as a warm-up to start our season.”
In their opening game, Nelson battled Calgary-based Foothills to a nil-nil draw, only to lose in a shootout.
The next two games Nelson lost by identical 3-nil scores against Kamloops and Kelowna to finish last in the round-robbin. With the three top teams splitting their games against each other, it came down to goal scored to decide the placings, and as it turned out, Kelowna and Calgary found themselves in the A Final, while Nelson met up with Kamloops again to battle for third and fourth place.
Nelson’s Harrison Giles came up with a terrific diving save on a penalty shot that kept the score at nil-nil early in the consolation final. Midway through the first half, Micah May ended Nelson’s scoring drought when he headed home a beautiful corner cross by Spencer Szabo.
Despite leading 1-nil at the half, Nelson was unable to hold the lead. Midway through the second half, Kamloops scored the tie the game and then an unlucky high bouncing ball eluded Nelson’s back line and found its way to the back of the net. That was enough to give Kamloops a 2-1 win and third place in the tournament.
“We aren’t really too worried about our results this weekend,” said Bennett. “This was more about showing the boys the calibre of teams out there and get them focussed their upcoming season.
“Our goal has always been to make provincials, but given that we are competitive with these top teams in the Interior, I think we can certainly set our sites on more than just making it to the provincials. We certainly weren’t the better team in the any of the games we played, but it is just the start of our season and I am very encouraged by our potential.”
EFFORT NOT LACKING WITH U14 GIRLS
The Nelson Selects U14 girls faced very stiff competition at the Ice Breaker.
Nelson faced Calgary in the first game and held a 1-0 lead at the half thanks to a successful penalty kick scored by Naomi Perkins. However, Calgary came back strong in the second half, scoring three unanswered goals to secure the win.
The second contest on Friday had Nelson facing Vernon. The Nelson squad battled hard but were unable to find the back of the net and Vernon won the game by a score of 2 – 0.
On Saturday, Nelson faced the Prince George team. Showing great improvement in play over the previous day, Nelson had many scoring opportunities, but were unable to beat a very aggressive goalkeeper. Prince George won the game by a score of 2-0.
On Sunday, Nelson faced Kelowna United Elite and played their best game of the tournament. The contest was hard fought, but Nelson was unable to capitalize on a number of exciting goal scoring opportunities. Solid goalkeeping by Haley Cooke stymied the Kelowna squad and the game finished in a 0-0 draw forcing a decision by penalty kicks. Kelowna narrowly won the contest and posted the victory.
This was the Nelson squad’s first time playing outdoors this season and coaches Paul Burkart and Pat Perkins were pleased with the team’s performance. The quality of Nelson’s play improved throughout the tournament, as shown by the final game. Cooke was the Nelson MVP showing great courage between the pipes against very strong attacks.
PROMISING START FOR U15 GIRLS
The Nelson Selects U15 girls squad played great over the weekend despite not winning a game.
On Friday they played Prince George, only to loose in the last minutes of the game 1-0.
Saturday morning they played Vernon United playing most of the game in the Vernon half, but couldn’t put the ball in the net. The game ended up in a 0-0 draw with Vernon ending up winning the shoot out.
In the afternoon game against the eventual tournament winning team Kelowna, Nelson got off to an early start with Hailee Gerun scoring two early goals, only to loose the game with two questionable hand ball calls resulting in two penalty shot goals. Nelson went on to loose the game 3-2.
The final game of the weekend had Nelson taking on Vernon for bronze, Vernon took this game 2-0.
Coach Mike Gerun said the girls played above expectations and really gelled as the weekend progressed. Judging from this weekend’s performance it appears the U15 girls can set their expectations high for the season.