A long soccer season couldn’t have ended any better for the Nanaimo U16 girls.
The Nanaimo Youth Soccer Club rep squad won the provincial championship on Sunday in Penticton, defeating the Coquitlam Metro-Ford Diablos 4-1 in the gold-medal match.
Dale Nicks, who co-coached the team with Lanny Cronan, said all players contributed, from the goalkeeper out.
After Emily Shires scored a pair of goals to stake Nanaimo to a 2-1 lead, keeper Kayte Higgins made a save on a penalty kick to preserve her team’s lead. Madison Leigh and Shires added insurance goals.
“It was a team effort. Our keeper making the stop on the penalty kick and then our back line, our defence, our midfield and our forwards did what they had to do,” Nicks said. “Our strikers put the ball in the net and our midfielders made sure that our strikers got fed the ball and our defenders did an amazing job of defending our half of the field.”
If the Nanaimo girls were well-oiled, it wasn’t by accident – Nicks pointed out that tryouts were last June, and the Island weather allowed the girls to play year-round to reach this point.
“That’s what probably brought us together as a team is having that amount of time together,” Nicks said.
First the Nanaimo girls won the league title, then the Island championship. They finished as runners-up to Coquitlam at the Coastal Cup, but got their “sweet redemption”, as Nicks called it, this past weekend.
The team started provincials Thursday with a 7-1 win over the Kamloops Blaze, then shut out Kelowna United the next day 3-0. Nanaimo ended pool play with a 2-0 loss to the Surrey United Outlaws, but the team’s record and goal differential put them in the championship game.
“Lanny and I are extremely proud of how well the kids played this season,” Nicks said. “[They’re] a group of very dedicated kids and they played together as a team, not as individuals.”