This past weekend the Nelson Selects U15 boys soccer team attended the Sam Steele Tournament in Cranbrook, and for the second time in two weeks had to play up an age in the U16 division due to insufficient enrollment for a U15 division.
According to assistant coach Daryl Verville, “Having played U16 two weeks ago in Invermere and winning the silver there, missing the gold only by shootout, we had some confidence in our ability to compete at that level.”
And this time around the Nelson squad took their results one step better, bringing home the gold medal.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” said coach Kerry Dyck. “Two weeks ago I told the boys they should be so proud to win a silver medal in an older division, but they took it a step further and won the gold this time, playing up.”
The team started with a 2-1 win over the Kootenay East U16 boys, with both goals coming from Aidan Mushumanski on nearly identical plays, smashing excellent volleys on crosses from the right. Next the Nelson boys dominated the Creston U16 boys, winning 5-0 in a game where the scored could have easily been double.
“We have a parent keep certain stats during our games, and we had 35 attempts on goal that game, to their two (both off target),” noted assistant coach Lyle Hill. “Although the boys played great, our one concern was the lack of finishing, as we should have had more.”
The goals in that game were provided by Josh Yasek with one and Milo Baranyai-Sheppard and Jaden Dyck with a pair each. Those results vaulted Nelson into first in their pool and a place in the semi-finals, where the games started to get harder, facing a team from Coaldale, Alta. The Nelson squad played excellent, though, winning comfortably, 2-0, in a game that was never in doubt. Goal scorers for Nelson were Baranyai-Sheppard again and Blake Markin-Hellekson.
The result put Nelson in the final, ironically against the other U15 team in the division, the Kootenay East U15 boys.
“They’re a very good team, whom we’ve had a great rivalry with for the past four or five years now,” noted Hill. “Though we beat them convincingly, 3-0, the last time we faced them, we knew they’d give us a much stiffer test this time around.”
And that is exactly what happened, with both teams playing an excellent, tightly contested match. Regulation time ended with the score tied 0-0, which meant that Nelson was headed to shootouts in the gold medal game for the second tournament in a row.
“I think the boys were really determined, after losing the shootout last time, and having to settle for silver,” said Verville.
Scoring in the shootout for Nelson were Jahmal Truth-Verville, Jaden Dyck, Grayson Hill and Ezra Foy. Nelson’s keeper, Bradey Sookero, made two spectacular saves on the four shots he faced in the shootout, to give Nelson the 4-2 victory and the gold medal.
“His performance was unbelievable,” said Hill. “He was definitely our player of the game in the final for that effort.”
Dyck added: “In fact, the defensive effort from our entire team needs to be recognized. We only conceded one goal in four games, which was key to our success.
“Often, it is the goal scorers who get the glory, but I want to draw attention to the defensive play of our midfielders, Grayson Hill Jaden Dyck, Keanu Tromans, and particularly Ezra Foy, as our holder. But even moreso, to our players who rotated in at fullback, Liam Jones, Thomas Baxter, Jacob Erickson, Josh Schacher and Aidan Mushumanski, and finally, especially, our often unsung heroes anchoring our defense at center back, Jesse Thurston and Jahmal Truth-Verville.
“Needless to say, I’m ecstatic about the gold medal result in this tournament,” Dyck said, “but I’m also very pleased with the way the boys achieved it, playing technically sound, possession, build up soccer. I hope we can continue to build on this momentum as we head next to the provincial championships in a couple weeks. If we can, I am excited about what we might accomplish.”