The Nelson U14 Girls Selects finished the rep soccer season with a hard fought, but well-deserved silver at the Pend Oreille Cup in Sandpoint last weekend.
The locals traveled south for the last tournament of the year looking to put on display the results of a season full of dedicated work on the pitch.
“For most of the season we pushed the girls at tournaments by playing in older divisions and against the toughest competition we could find,” said U14 Selects coach Paul Burkart. “This tournament we slotted into a division that fit our age level to show the players what all their effort could produce.”
The U14s started the tournament against a speedy FC Spokane club. Spokane held the edge in play during the first half, but the consistently steady Selects defensive unit helped ensure the score remained knotted at zeroes.
The second half was a great battle between to the two sides. With five minutes remaining in the game, a Spokane surge led to two big saves by Nelson keeper Hanna Quinn. With time running out, the Selects put on press of their own. With only a few minute left, Shianne Michalchuk passed to Ruby Creighton just outside the 18-yard box and the powerful forward lofted a beautiful shot over the head of the Spokane keeper to score the game winner.
In the second Saturday game the competition level was turned up even further against the powerful Idaho Thunder. Fighting against solid opposition and challenging officiating, the Selects fell behind early when the Thunder were awarded a penalty kick two minutes in. Twenty minutes in, Abby Beauchamp pounced on a rebound in front of the Thunder net to tie the score at 1-1. The Thunder would regain the lead late in the first half.
The Selects came out determined in the second half and ten minutes in, Sofia Arcuri finished a strong press by Nelson when she salted away rebound to tie the game at two. At the 22-minute mark the Thunder were again awarded a questionable penalty kick, but this time Quinn came out on the top to keep the game tied.
With six minutes left in the game the Selects took the lead when Grace Dehnel made a nice pass to Mattea Lorenzo Langevin who used her speed to create a breakaway that she finished nicely. With the ref’s watch already sounding the end of regulation time, the Thunder managed to get behind the Selects defense to score the game-tying goal.
“That was a very difficult team and the girls showed grit to overcome some adversity,” said Burkart. “We deserved to win this game, but they certainly fought through some tough calls with a positive result.”
On Sunday morning the Selects took on the host Sandpoint Strikers, needing a win to guarantee a trip to the tournament final. Like they did in the first game, the Nelson girls started slow and needed to depend on great goaltending by Quinn to keep the game even at zeroes at the half.
In the second half Nelson came around and started to dominate the play. Twenty-two minutes into the half, defender Allison Bendis made a nice throw-in deep in the Sandpoint end to Lorenzo Langevin who crossed the ball in front of the goal where Michalchuk finished to give Nelson the 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, a rare defensive lapse by Nelson allowed Sandpoint to get a chance they capitalized on to tie the score at 1-1. The final whistle produced a record of one win and two ties for Nelson which ended up being enough for a spot in the final.
In the tournament final, the Selects were matched against a powerhouse Southwest Calgary team. Facing a team that was just finishing their season, the Calgary club dismantled the Nelson side leaving the Selects to collect the silver medal.
“That was a great very talented team we played and unfortunately we simply ran out of gas,” said Burkart. “For an off-season tournament, it was a tremendous effort by our girls and they certainly deserved to come home with a medal.”