With first place finishes in two of their last three soccer tournaments, the Vernon United Tolko U16 girls team had high hopes of taking home gold at the 40th Annual Slurpee Cup tournament in Kamloops on the May long weekend.
Vernon opened the tournament against Kootenay South Storm with a 3-2 win. The game looked to be in complete control with Vernon up 3-0 well into the second half on goals from Kristin Huisman, Katrina Winstanley, and Shuswap FC import Sophia Ruckle. Kootenay was awarded a late penalty kick and soon after scored the second making it an exciting finish. Keeper Brianna Li made some key stops to maintain the win and was awarded game MVP. Midfielders Sidney Torrie and Emma Baycroft were excellent for their possession and calm distribution. Fullback and Shuswap FC import Holly McCaskill ensured no scoring chances originated from her side while making great passing decisions.
Game 2 saw Vernon come out slow against Coastal FC of South Surrey. Coastal maintained much of the play but Vernon defended well, keeping compact and allowing outside shots which Li handled easily. It was a different story in the second half which saw Vernon finally starting to play their possession game creating numerous scoring chances including a great run by rookie Madison Sutch. The game ended 0-0 with Brooklyn Routley’s amazing work rate winning her game MVP. Center back Paige Maleska was amazing playing calm professional football, snuffing out every potential Coastal run.
Game 3 against Burnaby Stealth was a spirited affair especially early in the first half with defender Paige Maleska taking a hard hit which required her to leave the game for x-rays. That seemed to fire up her teammates as they scored their first of two goals in a 2-0 win. On a great assist from Sidney Torrie, scoring phenom Ruckle finished for the 1-0 lead. The two holding midfielders, Jordyn Kisilevich and game MVP Katrina Winstanley, were key in this win playing great aggressive defense and quick effective passing. Early in the second half Ruckle did all the work taking the ball from just past half and finishing with a cracker from just inside the 18 yard line. Burnaby had little to offer after that and Vernon maintained possession with Kate McIntosh, while playing with injuries, helped in holding down the middle for the win and a first place finish in round robin play.
The gold medal final was all about defence. Up against a talented regional rep team from Quesnel, both teams took their turns at possessing and moving the ball, great soccer from both sides. As the first half came to and end, a great free kick cross from Abi King ended up at the feet of Jordyn Kisilevich who was clinical in finishing for the game.s one and only goal. The second half saw Quesnel turning up the pressure, but Vernon absorbed the offensive assault time after time, keeping shots from well outside. Shuswap FC import Jenae Bocking and game MVP Claire Baycroft, the two centre defenders, were a brick wall thwarting every advance.
United coaches are Greg Routley, Barry McIntosh and Tom Huisman.
Elsewhere at the Slurpee Cup:
VERNON UNITED TOLKO U13
Silver medals went to the Vernon United Tolko, after a 1-0 setback to the Kamloops Blaze in a riveting championship game that was deadlocked until the final moments.
Pinned in their own end for much of the first half, the Vernon defence would not crack. Centre-back Jayda Hatch was there to clear the ball when needed, depriving Kamloops of any chances on net. Lauren Cunningham kickstarted Vernon’s attack. Off a corner, she connected with Aimee Glasser, who tested the keeper in close. Soon after, a Cunningham free kick also caused mayhem in the Kamloops box.
The home side came out blazing again in the final half. As a Blaze shooter moved in on net, Jasmine Soon flew across the goalmouth to knock the ball out of harm’s way. The two rivals went back and forth. Soon drilled a free kick that the Kamloops keeper pulled in. When the Blaze threatened again, Ella Garrod twice swept away the danger. Sydney Lewis then laid a pass in for the cutting Ava Cesario, who cracked a shot just wide of the right post. Next, game MVP Lauren Cooke made a goal-line stand, gamely blocking a Kamloops free kick that had cleared the wall. With a penalty shootout looming, the Blaze got off a clinical strike from 18 yards to nab the gold.
The U13s opened the tournament on Saturday with a tightly-contested scoreless draw against Okotoks. MVP Lewis produced the best chance of the first half, as she stepped around a centre-back into the clear, but narrowly missed to the right. In the second, Soon sent a ball diagonally across the box to left winger Julia McLennan, whose rising shot caught the side of the net.
Sunday saw Vernon put on an impressive exhibition of passing and ball control in a 4-1 rout of Williams Lake. McLennan found the range first on a setup by Sophia Winstanley. The Cariboo girls knotted the contest before half. Picking herself up after a hard foul, Sophie Challen buried the free kick from the edge of the area to put Vernon back on top. Winstanley scored next on a rebound. Cooke put the game away, converting a beautifully threaded pass from McLennan. The speedy Amy Glasser was named MVP.
Needing a win against Prince George to take top spot in their pool, Vernon trailed 1-0 at halftime. Right after the break, keeper Marrah Wilford-Kaleikini made a gigantic save to keep the deficit at one. Lewis then broke through the physical Prince George back line, and tied the game with a rocket to the top right corner. MVP Cunningham and captain Cesario urged Vernon on with their inspired play all over the pitch. On defence, Taylor Stewart and Kate Lavery joined Hatch and Cooke to give PG little hope of striking back. Finally, Lewis fed a pass across the box to Camryn Steele, right in her wheelhouse, and she emphatically one-timed the ball home, sending her team on to the gold medal game.
“We all enjoyed watching the girls grow and bond as a team,” said Vernon coach Rob Cesario after the successful tournament.
VERNON UNITED TOLKO U15
Vernon took on the Sea to Sky Storm in their first game. Skylee Sigurdson-Poirier, Jessi Cleverley and Kendall McKinnon kept the Storm keeper hopping right from the get-go with multiple shots. The Vernon girls really poured it on throughout the first half with constant pressure up from the defensive line, lead by Emma Glasser and Tori Maltman. In the second half, Vernon worked really hard to put a point on the board with some good give and goes by Paige Cover and Cali Garro; Sigurdson-Poirier and Anna Hirschkorn both rushed the Storm keeper in the final minutes, but with no luck, the game ended 0-0 with a clean sheet for keeper Ashlee Befus and MVP for Tori Maltman.
Vernon United Tolko U15 Girls’ next game came against the Calgary MacKenzie United Celtic. The girls started strong early with a beautiful goal by Kendra Grant off of the kickoff. Vernon girls got caught off guard with a quick couple goals by MUC midway through the half. Vernon came back with a vengeance in the second half with Allie Maltman and McKinnon consistently working hard to force the ball up to Hirschkorn, Mia Maltman and Cleverley who all got shots in, but to no avail. Celtic was able to hold onto the 2-1 lead. Defender Tori Maltman was again the game MVP.
The third game was a heartbreaker against the West Coast United out of Nanaimo. Tolko never seemed to catch their stride; unable to capitalize on multiple opportunities. Jesse Mitchell, Glasser, Tori Maltman, and Mia Maltman never let up and worked really hard to keep the ball out of the Vernon end. The score in no way reflects the extraordinary efforts of keeper Befus to keep her team in the game. West Coast pulled off the 5-0 win. The game MVP was Mia Maltman.
In a difficult final game, the Vernon United Tolko U15 Girls were never able to get the upper hand against KEYSA Rovers. KEYSA scored one early on, and then again just before the end of the half. Hirschkorn, Jessi Cleverley and Jordyn Clarke poured on the pressure but were unable to get anything going against a solid Kootenay keeper. In the second half, defender Emma Glasser dug hard to consistently put the ball in front of the Rovers net. Sigurdson-Poirier, Kirsten Brown and Grant pushed hard to get a point on the board with Grant finally putting one in the back pocket. The game ended in a 2-1 loss for the Vernon team with Anna Hirschkorn getting the nod as MVP.