The Frances Kelsey Breakers punched their ticket to the AA girls soccer provincial championships with a top-four finish at the Island tournament they hosted in Duncan last week.
Typically, there are three spots available for Island teams at the provincial tournament, but with Carihi hosting and likely to finish in the top three at Islands — they ended up winning — that opened up a fourth Island berth.
After splitting their first two games last Monday, the Breakers turned their focus toward their third pool match against Ladysmith, the only team standing between them and a place at B.C.’s.
“I knew if we beat Ladysmith, we would be in,” Kelsey coach Brian Johnston said.
A 3-0 win sealed it up for the Breakers.
“It was a bit of an ugly game, to be honest,” Johnston said. “But we did what we had to do to get a result.”
Paige Hart shut down Ladysmith’s top player, and Kelsey got scoring from Jayda Lauzon and Taya Brubacher before capping it off with what Johnston called “the goal of the tournament,” a hard-earned effort by Grade 8 player Cade Smith off a corner by Brubacher.
“We didn’t give them much,” Johnston said. “And we got the goals we needed to.”
Kelsey opened pool play on Monday morning with a 4-0 win over Esquimalt on two goals by Aisha Werner and one each from Lauzon and Brubacher, and shutout goaltending by Rowan Parker. They lost 2-0 to Carihi that afternoon.
After locking up a top-four finish, the Breakers faced St. Michaels University School in the third/fourth game. SMUS went up 1-0, but Lauzon replied. The teams remained deadlocked for much of the match until SMUS made it 2-1. Kelsey put on the pressure for the last 10 minutes, but couldn’t pull even again.
The other pool at Islands was very tight, Johnston pointed out. All four teams won once on the first day, but Ballenas beat Shawnigan on the second day and SMUS defeated Brooks, with both winners advancing to provincials.
In addition to the top scorers, who are persistent threats on the pitch, Kelsey got good performances at Islands from captain Jizelle Balae, Serena Laloni and Taylor Johnston. Having multiple players who can step up is the team’s biggest strength.
“We have a lot of depth,” coach Johnston said. “There’s not much difference between our starting 11 and or 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th players.”
Prior to Islands, Kelsey placed third in a highly competitive North Island AA tournament that had five guaranteed berths at Islands and one chance to challenge with a South Island team for a wildcard.
Kelsey tied Brooks atop their pool with two wins and a tie, but Brooks ended up first due to goal differential. The Breakers defeated Brentwood 2-0 and Ladysmith 4-1 before tying Brooks 2-2.
“Our goal was to finish first or second,” Johnston said. “You don’t want to finish third and go into the ugly five/six game and a challenge.”
Celia Burdett and Jessica Butler had good showings at North Islands, and Parker was Kelsey’s MVP.
“I didn’t think we’d have a goalie this year, but she came out of the woodwork,” Johnston recalled. “She’s a basketball player. Our first game, I threw her in there and I thought, ‘We have a goalie.’”
Provincials start next Thursday in Campbell River, and the Breakers are aiming for a top-eight finish.
“Last time we went, two years ago, we finished 13th,” Johnston noted. “And I thought we were better than that.”
This year’s team is a relatively young group, with six Grade 12s, two Grade 11s, seven Grade 10s, six Grade 9s and one Grade 8, but there are four holdovers from the 2017 roster, including Balae, Robin De Valk Zaiss, Ricki-Anne Keen and Niki Leech, who didn’t make the trip to provincials last time.