The Nelson Selects U13 Boys fought adversity to claim gold at the Sam Steele Tournament in Cranbrook last weekend.
In the opening game of the tournament, the boys dropped an agonizing 1-0 decision to their arch rivals Kootenay South.
The team bounced back later that afternoon with a 5-2 decision over Columbia Valley. The next day, the team completed round robin play with a convincing 7-0 win over the Kootenay East U12 team.
“We had to put into context that the win was against a team that was a year younger, and not get overconfident,” said coach James Baxter. “However, we stressed to the boys that it was an opportunity to practice sound game fundamentals, such as solid defense and possession play, which the boys did, so we were pleased with their performance.”
Goal scorers in the round robin games were Eli Lutz, Ezra Foy, Dylan Luscombe, Ernesto Archambault, Milo Baranyai-Sheppard, Aidan Mushumanski, Grayson Hill and Josh Yasek.
The results were enough to net the team a second place in the round robin, good enough to make the gold medal game for a rematch against Kootenay South.
In a riveting game that required double overtime, the Nelson squad was able to reverse the tables and win the game, capturing the gold medal.
Kootenay South struck first scoring very early in the contest to take a 1-0 lead. Fortunately for Nelson, Baranyai-Sheppard made no doubt shortly later, blasting a shot past the keeper from inside the box.
The contest stayed tied through the remainder of the game, with both sides trading quality chances. In particular, near the end of the second half, the Kootenay South central midfielder fired a powerful, curving shot toward the top corner of the net. In an amazing save however, Bradey Sookero somehow managed to leap up and tip the shot wide of the goal at the last second, keeping the Nelson team alive. That proved pivotal, as in the second overtime frame, Baranyai-Sheppard came through clutch for Nelson again, bursting through the Kootenay South defense on a nice through ball and blasting a laser beam of a shot off the cross bar and down into the net from around 25 yards out, sealing the gold medal.
“We were very pleased with how the boys played throughout the weekend, particularly with the quality of their passing and possession game,” said coach Kerry Dyck. “They made huge strides this weekend in this regard, playing by far their best soccer of the season so far. And it was very exciting to see them rewarded with the gold medal.”
The coaches went on to emphasize the strong defensive play of the team throughout most of the weekend allowing only four goals in four games, noting the defensive core of Jesse Thurston, Luka Eyre, Thomas Baxter, Cody St. Thomas, Mushumanski and Jacob Erickson, along with the strong goaltending of goalkeepers Sookero and Blake Markin-Hellekson.
The U13 boys will travel to Prince George early next month for the Provincial B Cup tournament.