North Vancouver, B.C.
The Yukon Strikers U12 girls soccer team had plenty to give thanks for this past Thanksgiving weekend.
There were close wins, a gold medal and a chance to shine against a professional goalie.
The U12 Strikers went undefeated to win gold at the 28th annual North Shore Girls Soccer Club Thanksgiving Tournament on Monday in B.C.
“You get really proud of yourself because you’ve beaten all these teams,” said Strikers captain Abby Rich. “And you’re especially proud of yourselves for all the (teammates) who haven’t gotten gold before, because there were some people who hadn’t got a medal before. They were really proud of themselves too. It was just a really great experience winning gold.”
“It was awesome because it was my first tournament,” said teammate Kaydia Campbell. “It was really great.”
She says she was surprised because “the teams we played were really good and we won by just a little bit, so I was really happy.”
The Strikers had to fight for a spot in the final. The Yukon squad narrowly defeated the North Shore Panthers 2-1 in their final round robin match. Down 1-0 for almost all of the second half, Rich scored two goals in the final three minutes to propel her team to the win.
“That game was the most dramatic game I’ve ever had,” said Rich. “I thought we were going to lose but then we just came out and won.”
“I’ve been coaching soccer a long time and very rarely do you come across that dramatic a finish,” said Strikers head coach Spencer Rich.
The Strikers met the Panthers a second time in the final, but this time it was Sara Charlton, Emily Gaw and Kierra Smeeton finding the back of the net for the Strikers as they secured gold with a 3-0 win.
“They tried to shut down Abby, so we moved the ball to the open players and managed to create some goals in the final,” said Spencer.
Strikers goalkeeper Peyton Twardochleb was in net for the shut out in the final and for the narrow 2-1 win over the Panthers, keeping her team alive with a diving save in the final five minutes.
“I’m very excited. It was an excellent performance by the whole team,” said Spencer. “We played excellent football, which is the impressive thing from a coaching standpoint. We kept the ball very well, we passed very well, we held our positions very well and the team played very well as a whole.”
The Strikers opened with an 8-2 victory over the North Shore Sea Wolves. In the match both Abby and Charlton posted hat tricks while right-side midfielder Kamryn Williamson and left-side midfielder Emily Gaw each contributed a goal.
Yukon then downed the Surrey Chargers 5-2 with Abby giving another hat trick performance and Williamson and Smeeton also scoring.
This past weekend marked the third year in a row a Yukon Strikers team won gold at the tournament.
The U11 Strikers – with many of the same players as this past weekend – won gold last year and a U12 Strikers team won silver. Another U12 Strikers team also won gold in 2012.
The Yukon Strikers also entered a team in the U13 division of the tournament over the weekend, but didn’t manage to pick up a win.
“My older girls played in the U13 division, so they played 11-a-side for their first time,” said Spencer. “They also ended up playing against three gold-level teams and that kind of shows in the results.
“So it was an excellent experience for them, but they were tough, tough teams to play against … They got a taste of what they will face when they go to nationals, if they go to nationals next year.”
The U13 Strikers lost 5-0 to Surrey United S.C., 4-1 to North Shore United with a goal from Amy Vanderklay, 6-1 to PMO Platinum from Port Moody with Abby Rich scoring, and a tight 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Panthers.
“We had some crossover players because of the limited amount of players up here,” said Spencer. “I was allowed to have three players crossover from each team. So that really helped when it came to subbing. We only had 11 2002s go into the tournament, so we needed to have three 2003s just to have subs on that team.”
“Cassidy Cairns played exceptionally well for the U13 team, so did Peyton Twardochleb,” he added. “Both of them were crossover players and both played extremely well.”
As the team that travelled the farthest distance to the tournament, the Strikers were invited to be ball girls at the Vancouver Whitecaps pro women’s game Saturday night.
As part of an exhibition, five Yukon players took penalty shots on Whitecaps goalkeeper Abigail Hunt and Sammy Demchuk, Maya Cairns and Gaw each scored. They also got to keep a ball signed by the Whitecaps team.
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