They sang their hearts out as they took turns hoisting and kissing the Gibson Cup Wednesday night at the Greater Vernon Athletics Park.
Nobody was checking out the 12 North Enderby Timber (NET) engravings on the shiny silver piece of hardware: the Monashee Surveying FC were instead totally enthralled in the moment of their first-ever North Okanagan Soccer League playoff championship after a 2-1 win over NET.
“This is a huge win, first Cup win in Monashee’s history apparently.” said winning goal-scorer Enzo Paal, sporting a smile that lit up nearby Kalamalka Lake. “I’m super excited for the team. We did it. It was kind of scary at the end but we pulled off. Good game. Best game we played all season.”
Paal, who riverdanced in tight quarters and drew several fouls all night, drilled a ball from the far left flank towards the NET six-yard box which nicked a defender and sailed past keeper Jason Lukkarinen midway through the final 45 minutes.
“Honestly, I was thinking cross but it kind of deflected,” said Paal, an all-star with the UBC Okanagan Heat the past three college seasons. “I beat my guy down the line and I was thinking cross but then I got lucky and it got deflected and it went in. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, right?”
The Timber ruled the league regular-season table 10 points ahead of the runner-up Surveyors at 15-1-2. Monashee finished at 12-4-1. NET rang up a NOSL-high 77 goals but were stoned a few times by keeper Dominik St. Pierre and struck a few crossbars and posts. Defender Menno Burnet crushed a late free kick into the parking lot and the Timber sent a corner too far right past some leaping heads a few minutes earlier.
“That was a tough one for sure,” said Timber veteran superstar striker Brent Paulsen, 32. “You never like to lose to those guys. We just couldn’t finish: we had all the chance but we couldn’t get it in the back of the net. We’ll be back next year. It was a good year. We won the league.”
St. Pierre used his fingertips to send a 28-yard Paulsen free kick over the bar early in the second half, while Adam Marwood found the crossbar.
The strategy going in as underdogs was simple, according to Paal.
“Short passes, outwork them and make sure we run back on defence. Work harder than we’ve ever worked before. It’s not every day you play in the final. I’m proud of everybody.”
Monashee captain Nick Croken gave props to St. Pierre (three starts in regular season) for stepping up in goal after regular keeper Albert Goldnick had his nose broken in the semifinals Sunday, also praising the entire lineup for a marvellous showing.
“We just played as a team and had a great time and everybody kept their act together,” said Croken. We were here to beat them. We had three fans and they had 50 so we had to make ‘em look bad.”
Both teams were missing a few clutch starters, but there was definitely enough talent to make for an entertaining final.
Gabriel Price put the Timber in front near the 24th minute with a 20-yarder which St. Pierre bobbled and watched helplessly cross the goal-line. Brodie Couch took the ball down the wing and fed Poulsen inside, who in turn found a wide open Price.
Cam Hitch responded a few minutes later with a great shot just inside the 18. Isaiah Wenger swiped a ball and drew the assist.
Longtime referee Darrell Buckham, a former Vancouver Sun Soccer Boy who had a cup of mocha with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the old North American Soccer League, let the players decide the match for the most part. He issued yellows to Burnet, Marwood and Oben Tabe of NET, and Brett Korberg of Monashee as things got a little testy in the final half.
“We kept on ‘em and got under their skin and finally they started breaking down,” said Croken.
CORNER KICKS: Ian Gibson, 2017 winner of the Tim Hortons distguinshed service award, presented the trophy named after him…Timber vet Danny Stein was on injured reserve after being in a serious truck rollover with workmates on a construction site in Chetwynd…Monashee was without leading scorers Alberto Lopez (on a red card) and Karanmeet Khartra (headed back to university)…Peter Solymosi and Jas Parr ran the lines for Buckham…A celebration of life for 88-year-old soccer pioneer Herman Quint is Friday, 1 p.m., at the Vernon Alliance Church by MacDonald Park. Quint was a keeper for the 1972 Royal Cup (Okanagan Valley) champion Vernon National Royalites. He lived adjacent to MacDonald Park, where he helped hundreds of youngsters learn the beautiful game…A celebration of life for Jim Domokos, who helped youth soccer founder George Stein manage the Royalites and was a fixture at men’s soccer games until his death at 85, is Saturday, Sept. 9, noon, at the Army, Navy, Air Force Hall.