The six-year drought is over. Nelson is once again a provincial soccer champion.
Ali D’odorico scored twice as the under-16 Selects defeated Vernon United 2-0 on Sunday to capture the B Cup gold medal in Penticton. The team finished the round-robin 3-0 before entering the final, where they won Nelson’s first title since 2010.
Chief Paul Burkart, who coaches the team, was elated with the victory. It’s only the third time since 2002 that Nelson has captured a provincial title.
“Crazy eh? Little Nelson taking on these big squads. We played so well, it was crazy,” he said Monday.
Burkart said he had scouted the Vernon side the day before the final and was apprehensive about who his team was about to play. “They had incredible defence, their goalie was outstanding and they had three fast, talented strikers. So I knew going into this game that we would have to play our best soccer, and as it turns out we certainly did.”
The Selects and Vernon stayed scoreless through the half, but Nelson struck shortly after the break.
Midfielder Emily Taylor found D’odorico, who beat the Vernon keeper in the bottom corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
That shot proved reliable for D’odorico on the next goal as well. Shianne Michalchuk battled past a defender and fired a cross to D’odorico, who took a step and directed the ball into the same spot as her first strike.
Vernon pressed, but Nelson’s backline and keeper Hanna Quinn proved up to the challenge.
“[Quinn] made some nice saves to keep a clean sheet. She did a nice job. Everybody stepped up when they needed to,” said Burkart.
It’s the second major title for a Nelson soccer team this year following the L.V. Rogers girls squad’s victory last month.
Nine boys and girls teams represented Nelson at provincials in Penticton and West Vancouver, and three returned with medals.
The U18 girls settled for silver after falling 3-2 on penalties to the host Pinnacles FC in Penticton, while the U14 girls earned bronze with a 3-2 victory against the Prince George Timberwolves.
Burkart said the U16 team’s gold medal was especially satisfying considering how their season unfolded. They started out with just 14 players and no nearby squads their age to play. Instead they would have to play younger teams, which they did in two tournaments, or older teams.
“It’s just overwhelming for me to see,” said Burkart, “because they worked hard. We’ve been working hard for three years to get to the spot where we were yesterday. It was rewarding.”