The Nelson under-16 Selects girls picked up where they left off in July and captured gold at the annual Little Bear Tournament in Revelstoke over the weekend.
The U16s — who won the Provincial B Cup Championship in Penticton in early summer — went 3-0-1 in the first tournament since the summer break to secure the top spot.
“Our entire line-up played very well, it was enjoyable to watch,” said head coach Paul Burkart. “What made this title particularly impressive is that we were playing in the U18 division so most of the teams were older than us. That didn’t stop our girls as they were in control with their ball movement and played really solid defence all weekend and showed once again that they are champions.”
The tournament started on Saturday morning with a contest against the Calgary Villains U16 squad. Two minutes into the game, Nelson midfielder Emily Taylor shot a laser into the top corner for the 1-0 lead. The game was evenly played for the rest of the first half.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Maya Ida took a nice through pass from Taylor and deposited it into the Calgary goal for a 2-0 lead. Four minutes after that Nelson midfielder Shianne Michalchuk picked up a loose ball in front and dangled her way past a couple of Villain defenders making the score 3-0. Calgary got one back late in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as Nelson started the tournament with a 3-1 win.
In a hard fought second game against the Airdrie FC U17 team produced a 1-1 draw that the Alberta club was lucky to escape with. Lucy Fox scored the lone goal for Nelson.
“It’s always a concern after a few weeks off for summer break that the girls would come out flat,” said Burkart. “Although we started a little flat against the Calgary squad, the girls picked it up in the second game against a very strong team from Airdrie. We played very well, controlled the majority of the play and created a lot of scoring opportunities but had a hard time finishing. We were a bit disappointed not picking up a win in this one.”
On Sunday morning, the Selects faced a much bigger Cochrane Wolves U18 team, but again got off to a quick start when Shane Panko Dool took a nice pass from Fox and gave her team a 1-0 lead just over two minutes in.
In a hard-fought game, the Wolves came back to tie the game midway through the second, but Nelson quickly responded when Mattea Lorenzo pounced on a Jodi Surina rebound to give the Selects a 2-1 lead. Another fine pass from Fox, this time to Michalchuk gave the Selects a 3-1 advantage. A huge diving save late in the game by Nelson keeper Hanna Quinn preserved the second victory of the tournament.
Needing to score three goals and win the final game to lock up the gold, the Selects were matched against rival Kootenay South U17s. In a spirited match, Nelson finally got on the board when Panko Dool scored off a header that was fed through by Surina. Three minutes after that, Ruby Seright was fouled in the box and Grace Dehnel was successful on the penalty kick to give Nelson the 2-0 lead heading into the half.
Kootenay South scored early in the second half on a rebound and then tied the score 22 minutes into the half on a penalty kick to tie the score. But one minute after that, Taylor fired another shot over the Kootenay South keeper to regain the lead for Nelson. Michalchuk salted the game away late in the game to make the final 4-2.
“Although the girls had two months off and looked a bit rusty at times, they played some real top notch soccer against very good, older girls,” said Burkart. “Their hard working, physical play is what won them the provincials and again won them gold this weekend.”
The U16 Selects’ next action is this coming weekend when they take part in the annual Kootenay South Eye Of The Storm Tournament in Castlegar/Trail.