A top-eight finish at the provincial AA championships may have been a little over-ambitious, Frances Kelsey girls soccer coach Brian Johnston admitted, but the young team laid the groundwork for some future success at the tournament that wrapped up on June 1 in Campbell River.
The Breakers wound up in 15th place at the AA provincials, but with the exception of their first game, they were competitive in every contest. As well, Johnston noted, Brooks Secondary, who didn’t initially qualify through the Island tournament, and who Kelsey beat during the season, was awarded a last-minute berth when another team backed out, and finished seventh.
“It wouldn’t have been impossible [to make the top eight],” he said. “We’re probably a little bit young, mostly Grade 9s and 10s, and the size and strength made a difference.”
“We were in the mix. We were a little younger than average, and it made a bit of a difference. It was a great experience. We were never really out of any game except for the first game.”
The Breakers lost their first two matches on May 30 4-0 to South Kamloops and 3-0 to Collingwood. Collingwood, Johnston said, had probably the best individual player in the whole tournament, and she scored early in the game before being shut down by Niki Leech. The game remained close until Leech was injured with 10 minutes left, and the player she had been shadowing buried two quick goals.
The following day, Kelsey played another close game against Holy Cross, deadlocked at 1-1 until the Crusaders scored the winning goal with a minute left. The Breakers’ best player on the day, according to Johnston, was diminutive Grade 8 Cade Smith.
“She hadn’t played much at all in the first two games,” he explained. “So we brought her on for some fresh legs. She controlled the tempo and we outplayed them in the second half.”
Smith set up Kelsey’s lone goal, with a through ball that Robin De Valk Zaiss redirected into the net.
“We had a lot of the play in the second half, enough to win the game,” Johnston said. “It was our best performance, for sure.”
On Friday afternoon, Kelsey opened the playoffs with a 3-1 loss to Pitt Meadows, another game that could have gone either way. Aisha Werner scored the Breakers’ goal.
“We outplayed them tactically, but size and strength was the difference,” Johnston assessed.
The Breakers closed out the tournament with a 4-2 win over L.V. Rogers in the 15th-place game. Rogers scored first, then Werner tied it up but the Nelson school went ahead again a minute later. Taya Brubacher came on in the second half and scored two goals 10 minutes apart, both on great individual efforts, and Werner added her second of the game with five minutes left.
Celia Burdet was named to the Commissioner’s 16, which Johnston felt was well-deserved.
“She played every minute of every game — she was the only one — and she still seemed to have as much legs at the end of the fifth game as at the start of the first,” the coach said.
Kelsey captain Jizelle Balae also came up big for Kelsey, filling in at goalie for the balance of the tournament after Rowan Parker aggravated an old injury. Balae is one of five players the Breakers will lose to graduation this year, along with Parker, De Valk Zaiss, Ricki-Anne Keen and Aidan Matheson.