Kelsey plays to best-ever finish, Shawnigan wins consolation

The Frances Kelsey Breakers played to their best finish ever at a provincial field hockey championship.

The Frances Kelsey Breakers played to their best finish ever at a provincial field hockey championship last weekend, placing sixth, as well as being the runner up for the fair play award, which went to 16th-place Chilliwack.

“To make it into the top eight was awesome,” coach Ali Andersen said. “The girls worked hard all year to try to get a good result at provincials. We were definitely a team to contend with.”

Already guaranteed of a top-eight finish, Kelsey faced Cowichan in the first round of the playoffs and lost 1-0.

“Unfortunately, our pools crossed over,” Andersen said. “We were really hoping for a first-place finish in our pool, because first played second, and we were hoping to avoid playing them.”

The score of the game against Cowichan could have been 8-0 if not for the outstanding play of goalie Amy Osmond, Andersen noted.

Kelsey bounced back to beat West Vancouver 2-0, then, despite a depleted roster, only lost 1-0 to Gleneagle in the fifth/sixth game. Among Kelsey’s best players in the tournament was sweeper Helen Brancato, who Andersen called “fundamental” to the team’s performance.

Goalie Osmond is one of three players graduating, although Grade 8 player Niki Leech is waiting in the wings. The team will also lose Marina Ellison and Rachel Price.

“I’m looking forward to next year,” Andersen said. “It will be exciting, especially since our girls had the goal of wanting to be a contender this year, and they did it. People are always talking about Cowichan, and they deserve it, but we want people to start saying ‘Kelsey, Kelsey, Kelsey. Look out for them.’”

The defending champions from 2014 Shawnigan Lake School missed the top eight by a single goal, but won their last three games to win the consolation bracket and place ninth.

“Despite the disappointment of not coming in the top portion, I’m happy for the girls that they ended on a high,” coach Kelly Koepp said.

Shawnigan needed to tie Kelowna in the last game of the round robin in order to advance to the top eight, but lost 2-1.

“If we had just kept that second goal out, we would have been in the top half,” Koepp said. “It was a tough lesson to learn.”

Even in the consolation bracket, Shawnigan didn’t have any easy games. They had to get past Churchill, then South Delta, for whom there were similarly high expectations, and finally Heritage Woods, who they beat in a sudden-death shootout after the teams ended regulation tied 0-0.

Although Shawnigan won the AAA title in 2014, the team went through a lot of roster turnover and barely resembled the squad from a year ago.

“From a coaching perspective, it was one of the most rewarding seasons because the girls came so far,” Koepp said. “Individually and as a group, they made the biggest strides.”

This year’s team will lose six Grade 12s, four of whom were starters, and some of the team’s best players at the provincial tournament, including goalie Leigh Campbell and captain Tai Williams. Other top performers for the team were Annika Kleinschmidt, Noa Wischmann, and Amelia Macintosh, a Grade 9 student and the youngest player on the team.

All three local coaches commented on the benefits of hosting the tournament together, and the way the Vancouver Island and Cowichan Valley field hockey communities came together to make it happen.

“Even though Island field hockey is smaller than in Vancouver, we probably had just as many volunteers and participation and people who were passionate about it,” Koepp said.