The St. Elias Eagles play a style of soccer that emphasizes maintaining possession of the ball. Now they have a silver medal in their possession.
A team from Haines Junction’s St. Elias Community School captured silver at the Super Soccer Territorial School Championship in Yellowknife, N.W.T., April 27-30.
“They got a lot of praise from the referees on their style of play, and the other teams started to mimic their style of play,” said coach Derric Lewis. “It’s kind of neat to see the impact they had on the soccer scene.
“I consider it simple possession soccer. You pass, you play the way you face, and you retain the ball.”
The medal marks the third year in a row a team from St. Elias won hardware at the tournament that features school teams from all three Canadian territories.
The Eagles took silver in the Grade 8 boys division with a 6-2 loss to Yellowknife’s William McDonald School Blue Team in the final. Kaelen Lewis and Ethan Thompson scored for the Eagles.
“We had some great scoring opportunities and their goalie came up with some good saves — we just couldn’t finish,” said Derric Lewis. “No shame in the loss. The kids were tired, really tired, and a third game on that day was a bit of a stretch for them.”
The Eagles reached the final with a 5-4 win over the William McDonald White Team, who they lost to in the round robin. They took the narrow win with goals from Joah Thompson, Jason Symanski, Kaelan Lewis and two from Tanner Germain.
The Eagles earned their second shutout of the tournament in the quarterfinal, winning 3-0 over Ecole St. Patrick School White Team from Yellowknife. Ethan Thompson, Psalm Clunies-Ross and Symanski scored for Haines Junction.
The Eagles played eight games over the weekend, going 3-2 in the round robin before the playoffs. They started their first match an hour after stepping off the plane from Whitehorse, losing 4-3 to the St. Patrick Black Team.
Haines Junction bounced back with a 6-3 win over Ecole Allain St-Cyr, another school from Yellowknife.
They then finished the first day of play with a 5-1 win over Diamond Jenness High School from Hay River, N.W.T. Haines Junction and Hay River were the only two co-ed teams entered in the Grade 8 boys division
“The girls don’t back down; they’re pretty fierce competitors,” said Derric Lewis. “(Freya-Rae Rowe and Psalm Clunies-Ross) never backed down and showed the boys a thing or two.”
The Eagles opened Saturday with a 3-2 loss to the William McDonald White Team, who they’d later beat in the semifinal.
They then downed the St. Patrick Green Team 4-0 in a game they needed to win to advance to the playoffs. It was the first shutout for the Eagles keeper, Jonas Schaerig, a “brave little goalie who defended the goal. (He had) timely saves during desperate times during the game,” said Derric Lewis.
“For a community the size of Haines Junction, to go up against Yellowknife and all their high schools and walk away with a silver is great,” said he added.
Every member of the Eagles Grade 8 team scored at least two goals at the tournament.
“Callum Weir (was a) monster on defence,” said Derric Lewis. “He allowed us to play the ball from the back with control, shut down all the opponents top players and chipped in with a few goals.”
St. Elias Community School was also represented by a team in the Grade 6 division, but that Eagles squad came away without a win in tournament play.
However, it’s worth noting that every match they played was closer than the previous. They opened with a 15-1 loss and finished with a 4-2 one.
“Our Grade 6 team improved an enormous amount and learned a ton about team play,” said coach Cindi Cowie. “Some of the players are new to soccer and some just haven’t had much opportunity to play games.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com