Pemberton, Whistler impress at soccer provincials

Red Devils place fifth, Storm finish seventh in Kelowna

For Whistler and Pemberton secondary schools' senior girls' soccer teams, single round-robin losses were the only thing holding either squad back from playing in the medal round at last weekend's provincial championships.

Both teams finished with winning records and placed in the top half of the 16-team field at the B.C. High School Girls 'A' Provincial Championships held Thursday to Saturday (May 31 to June 2) in Kelowna, with the Pemberton Red Devils finishing fifth and the Whistler Storm ranking seventh.

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It was an impressive finish to the season for both teams, who were the Lower Mainland zone's sole representatives in the provincial tournament.

"We were absolutely thrilled," said Whistler coach Bernard Messeguer, whose team was among the youngest at the event with six Grade 8 players. "We were babies compared to these guys, so to make it in seventh place was absolutely incredible."

Messeguer added that he thinks the seventh-place finish was a record result for Whistler, having achieved eighth at provincials in the past.

Both Whistler and Pemberton went 2-0 in pool play on the opening day of the tournament. The Red Devils were matched up against the two-time defending champs from Glenlyon Norfolk and needed a win to play for a top-four position.

Pemberton put a scare into the Victoria school but ultimately fell 4-2.

"We drew first blood on them," explained Pemberton coach Kim Townley. "But Glenlyon is the No. 1 team in the province and they told us they were scared because we had them in the first half."

Pemberton continued its strong play into the playoff round from there. The Red Devils knocked off Langley Christian 3-2 in a Friday semifinal to advance to the fifth-place game, where they blanked Osoyoos 4-0.

Pemberton's offence was led through the weekend by Tachona Jones, who netted two hat tricks and nine goals overall during the tournament. Charley Field was selected for the event's Commissioner's XI Award.

Other players helping the Red Devils to the fifth-place finish were Ashley LeBlanc, Lucy Hawksbee, Sierra Townley, Desirae Townley, Rachel Leverton, Hannah Leverton, Amhani Jones, Kyla Sproule, Simone Beaudry, Jenna Wilkins, Megan Norman, Emma Sturdy, Joanna Read, Eliza Eslake, Emma Chadsey and Lyra Tuck.

The Storm beat Fort St. James and Cedar by 4-3 counts, erasing a 3-1, second-half deficit against Fort St. James to win. That set up a battle with Immaculata on Friday for first in the pool, but Whistler fell 5-0 to be moved into the same playoff bracket as Pemberton.

The Storm would have advanced to play the Red Devils with a semifinal win over Osoyoos on Friday, but Whistler was hampered by the loss of two key players to injury, including starting goalkeeper Emily Cankovic, and suffered a 4-1 loss.

Whistler rebounded in Saturday's seventh-place game against Langley Christian, securing the victory on penalty kicks after the two teams were scoreless in regulation and extra time.

Messeguer said all players on the roster were key contributors to Whistler's success in Kelowna, but described Emily Nakajima's play as a Lionel "Messi-like performance," referring to the great Argentinean striker. Katrina Underhill was named the Storm's Commissioner's XI Award recipient.

With the relative youth of this year's Storm, who had just one Grade 12 in the lineup, Messeguer said he sees a bright future for the Whistler team.

"In a couple of years, if we can keep this team together, we're going to be powerhouses," he said. "It was a truly, truly great result for us."

Whistler's playing roster also included captain Rebecca Flynn, Christina Saldat, Hannah Cousar, Nicole Tobias, Georgia Astle, Jenya Nordin, Skylar Lovell-Schmidt, Jordynn Anderson, Siobhan Van Gruen, Ale Baradel, Emma King, Jennifer McTavish and Emina Ida.

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