It was the perfect ending to a nearly perfect season.
Nanaimo’s Upper Island Storm U14 rep girls’ soccer team won the provincial championship on Sunday, defeating North Shore 1-0 in Burnaby.
“The whole tournament was an excellent test for our kids. It was a roller coaster of emotions and style of play,” said Bobbie Taylor, the team’s coach. “They brought their A game for the final game which was just stellar. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls, really.”
The Storm went 1-1-1 in the round robin, qualifying for the final on the strength of goal differential after beating the Kamloops Blaze 5-1, tying West Coast Auto Group FC 1-1 and then losing 3-2 to North Shore SC.
The setback was the Storm’s first loss of the season, but they handled the adversity and turned things around on North Shore.
Upper Island changed up its formation for the final. Cassie Carmichael marked and totally shut down the opposition’s dangerous striker, alleviating pressure on the Storm defenders. The defence was so effective that goalkeeper Lydia Maughan didn't need to make any difficult saves, though she played her angles well and made smart decisions. Still, the game stayed 0-0 almost all the way through, and the coach was thinking ahead to potential extra time.
“It was tough,” Taylor said. “We didn’t dominate the game by any means. We had the edge, but it was a dogfight.”
The winning goal came in the 69th minute of the 70-minute match, when Erin Jensen put a perfect header just under the crossbar at the far post.
The Storm maintained their lead through two or three minutes of injury time, and then the final whistle blasts sounded on their B.C. championship.
“The celebration was absolutely fantastic,” Taylor said. “Tons of emotion. It was a total example of what a tight family we are as a team.”
The B.C. Soccer A Cup championship is the final trophy in a triple-crown season for the Storm, who previously won the Island Cup and then the Coastal Cup.
“It’s a special story…” said the coach. “These girls will remember that one forever.”