The Nelson Selects U14 Girls came away from the 3 Blind Refs tournament in Kalispell, Montana this past weekend with some disappointment, a silver medal and some valuable lessons for the future.
A last minute schedule and group change threw the girls into some early morning disarray with their first match against Flathead Soccer Club from Kalispell, as an 8 a.m. kickoff time and a lack of sleep proved to be immense hurdles for the Selects to overcome, as they lost the match 2-0.
“We came out looking rather lethargic,” said Selects head coach Iain Harvey. “And we paid the price despite my feeling that we were much the better side”.
Nelson’s second game had them resorting back to their form from the Terry Walgren tournament, as they brushed aside Fernie United 3-1 without really ever getting out of second gear.
Taylor Zimmer, Laurel Halleran, and Jessie Van Donselaar struck for the Selects, with Van Donselaar coming into a large degree of praise from her coach.
“She was essentially unplayable today,” said Harvey. “And on this form she will be a significant factor in our provincial playdown games this coming weekend.”
With their next match not until 1230 p.m. on Sunday, the girls could afford to have some extra sleep and a leisurely breakfast before heading into their third match, a tense one versus playdown rival KEYSA Rovers from Cranbrook.
With many motivational words ringing in their ears from their loud and abrasive coach, Nelson controlled the match from start to finish and won 2-0 to grant passage to the final that afternoon.
Megan Tennant and Marley Reynold scored the goals. Amy Hodgson and Jasmine Faulkner also added goals that were disallowed for minor infractions.
Assistant Coach Pat Hodgson was delighted with the result, remarking that “we showed them what we are capable of, and although Rovers gave it an earnest effort, the quality of our play was fantastic today.”
The Selects lined up on Sunday afternoon to play against Electric City Soccer Club from Great Falls, Montana in the final.
Nelson got off to a flyer with an early goal from Emma Wheeldon giving the Selects the lead. However some suspect decisions then started to go against the Selects, one of which lead to the tying goal before the end of the first half. Despite holding the majority of possession, Nelson couldn’t translate that stat into further goals and the match ended 1-1. Extra time solved nothing and the game headed into the dreaded penalty-kick shoot out.
Having never been in that particular situation before, the girls couldn’t keep their nerve, and lost the shoot out 3-0, despite the best efforts of Nelson keeper Ava Strautman.
“We were better than them in every aspect of the game, and it’s a big disappointment to lose in that manner, especially when comparing our style of soccer to theirs,” said Harvey. “But I give them and their keeper all the credit in the world for being able to neutralize us after our first goal. Although the ref wasn’t our friend on the day and it affected our game to a degree, our girls will bounce back from this even stronger from the experience.”
The U14s are now set for the provincial playdowns that go Sunday in Fruitvale against regional rivals Kootenay South and KEYSA Rovers for the opportunity to represent the Kootenays at the Provincial B Cup in July in Vancouver.