The Nelson Selects U15 boys team returned from a successful weekend at the Columbia Valley Clash of the Titans Soccer Tournament in Invermere.
There was no U15 division in the tournament, so the team had to play up in the older U16 division, with six teams, but in spite of that challenge the team came home with the silver medal, narrowly missing the gold medal by a shootout loss in the fifth round of shots.
En route to the final, the team tied its first game 2-2, won its second game 3-2 and won its third game 3-0.
In the first game, Milo Baranyai-Sheppard scored both of Nelson’s goals, with another in the second game, and rounded out his tournament scoring with a hat trick in the third game.
Other goals in the second game came from Thomas Baxter and Blake Markin-Hellekson. This got Nelson to the final, in which regulation time ended with the score tied 1-1 against a Calgary-area U16 team.
Jaden Dyck made a strong play getting to a loose ball in the opposition penalty area, forcing the defender to take him down and win a penalty shot, which Jesse Thurston calmly converted for Nelson’s goal in regulation time. Unfortunately for the Nelson squad, they fell just short, losing the shootout.
“I was extremely proud of the boys this weekend,” said coach Kerry Dyck. “They played with a ton of heart, grit and determination. But even more pleasing, they played soccer the right way, playing a possession style of game, building from the back, and controlling the ball, rather than relying on kick and run, which many of our opponents do.
“I told our technical director, Brett Adams, he would have been proud, as he has been stressing this style from day one. In the semi-final game, which we won 3-0, we must have had 70 per cent of the possession and territorial advantage, earning 12 corner kicks to their two and outshooting them 16-3. It was a fantastic game, in which we came as close to the perfect game as possible. The boys were especially good in the final as well, but that U16 Calgary team was a tough opponent.”
Assistant coach Daryl Verville agreed: “According to a few of their parents, they are a top team from their area, regularly qualifying for their provincial championships. But they had no edge over us and it was a very even game. In fact, I thought we played the better possession style of the two teams.
“In the dying minutes of the game, we came oh- so-close to winning, with Milo Baranyai-Sheppard getting his foot to a corner kick, directing a shot on net, but their keeper made a great save to preserve the tie and take the game to shootouts.”
“In addition to the great way we played, I was especially pleased with how it was a team effort,” noted Dyck. “Literally everyone on the team played great. In fact, for two of the games I could not name a player of the game, because everyone played so well that no one stood out. This was also largely true in the semi-final and final, though I felt Milo deserved the nod for his hat trick and Ezra Foy for an especially strong game from holding midfield.
“In the final, I thought our keeper, Bradey Sookero, was especially good, particularly coming off his line to clear or gather long balls in and distributing to our fullbacks. I told the boys that these silver medals are something to be very proud of, earning them playing in an older division, even more so than gold medals earned playing in our own age.”