The Peter Skene Ogden (PSO) Eagles girl’s soccer team placed seven out of 16 teams at the “A” girls’ soccer provincial championships held in Surrey from May 31 to June 2.
The team qualified for provincials after finishing second in zones on May 19 in Prince George. They lost a tough game to Fort St. James in their opener before comfortably defeating Chetwynd and Burns Lake.
Sixteen teams qualified from across the province for provincials. They were placed in pools of four for round-robin play, followed by a two-game playoff.
In their first game on Wednesday, the PSO Eagles faced the host team, Southridge Storm. This was the team’s toughest opponent of the year. The Southridge Storm went on to take second place in the championship game.
“They were all over us in the first half as we struggled to match their pace and ball movement. To the girl’s credit, they adjusted in the second half, outshot Southridge, and put two balls off the crossbar,” said Coach Steven Keller. PSO lost the game 3 – 0.
The Eagles faced Queen Margaret’s School from Duncan in their second game on Wednesday. This was a comfortable 3 – 1 win for PSO off a goal by midfielder Megan Holyk and two goals by forward Ximena Cibrian.
Goalie Hayley Stobbart made a superb diving save and securely handled the ball throughout, while the defence by Alexis Neels, Kim Baechmann, Daizey Sankey, and Eva Rosenstock did an excellent job of limiting chances.
On Thursday, the girls started with a game against Vernon Christian. It was a very tight contest with strong defence by both teams. Forwards Mikaela Anderson and Sienna Lamarche stood out in this game for the pressure they put on Vernon’s defense. They consistently forced turnovers and brought a lot of energy to the team.
PSO eventually won 1 – 0 off a corner kick by Holyk. After three round-robin games, PSO finished second in their pool with a record of two wins and one loss.
The afternoon game against St. Ann’s School from Kamloops was to determine which team would be in the fifth-place game. PSO started sluggishly and conceded a goal off a corner early in the first half.
The Eagles equalized on a brilliant individual run by Holyk. She dribbled past three defenders before her low shot beat the goalie.
Keller said that St. Ann’s scored a beautiful goal on a free kick to the top left corner from about twenty feet outside the box and another goal off a corner.
Holyk got her second goal of the game to bring the score to 3-2, but the comeback ran out of time. Coach Gerado Cibrian said that the girls outplayed St. Ann’s for most of the game but the slow start cost them.
On Friday, PSO played against Fernie for seventh place in the tournament. The Eagles controlled the game with a marked territorial advantage.
Sarah Balbirnie continued to lead by example with an absolutely tireless effort at both ends of the field, her speed consistently creating problems for the other teams.
Lauren Aikenhead’s strong tackling and Aubrey Siclari’s passing and defensive effort were other highlights of the game. The Eagles won 2 – 0 on goals by Holyk and Emma Theuring.
On Thursday evening, the teams attended a banquet held at Southridge School with guest speaker Madison Mailey, Olympic gold medallist. Mailey delivered an address about resilience and spoke to players individually and took pictures with them. Players were impressed by the huge effort Mailey needed to become an Olympian and by the opportunity to wear a gold medal.
Each team was also given an award at the banquet to give to their unsung hero. The PSO team chose to recognize Stobbart for both her improvement in becoming one of the stronger goalies of the tournament and for the positivity she brought to the team.
The team prepared for the zone qualifier and provincials since the start of the season with practices over the winter, twice-weekly practices in the spring, and tournaments in Hope, Merritt, and Clearwater.
After going undefeated at all three tournaments and not conceding a goal, zones were their first real taste of adversity. Both Cibrian and Keller were very pleased with the team’s reaction. Cibrian said that “The girls stepped up for each other. It’s a very tight-knit group, and they wanted to win it for each other.”
The team noted that many local businesses and individuals were very generous in helping to make the three-day trip to provincials in Surrey possible. Without their assistance, the trip would not have happened.
Looking forward, the team is going to continue practicing for games against surrounding communities and next season. On the season, Keller said, “It was wonderful to see how the players, the parents, the school, and the community made it possible. These are the experiences – the hard work and the teamwork – that we hope players and students take with them from school.”