Even before the first whistle blew, Yukon soccer players knew history would be made on the pitch that day.
Yukon’s female soccer team placed 10th with a 4-0 loss to Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on August 2.
Even with the loss, placing 10th instead of ninth had they won, Team Yukon posted its highest-ever finish in soccer — male or female — at the Games. It also marks the first time Yukon finished ahead of a province, placing a spot ahead of New Brunswick.
“It was neat to be in that game and they actually played their best game of the tournament, so it was a really nice way to finish,” said Yukon head coach Jake Hanson. “I think we had the confidence to compete in a way we hadn’t earlier in the tournament. We were a little more aggressive in our challenging, defending and determination to win the ball back when we didn’t have it. At the same time we were able to build on the offensive success in the combination play we had in the game with N.W.T.”
Yukon took a 1-0 win over rival territory N.W.T. the previous day to reach the ninth/10th match. It was Yukon’s first win in female soccer at the Canada Games since beating N.W.T. in 2005. Yukon scored the game-winner late in the first half on a corner kick from Yukon attacking midfielder Malorie Hanson that went off an N.W.T. player and in.
Malorie, who is a co-captain of the team, had a goal called back in the loss to Newfoundland in the second half. A teammate took a shot that deflected off a Newfoundland defender to Malorie, who put it in. But Hanson was called offside on the play.
“I believe she was in an onside position before we took the shot,” said Jake Hanson. “It was a tough one for the linesman to call…. It could have been an allowable goal because it came off a defender.
“It felt good to see the ball hit the back of the net. (Player) Kamryn (Williamson), when it happened, looked at me and said, ‘That looked like at least half a goal.’”
Newfoundland had some close matches in their pool, losing 1-0 to B.C. and taking a 1-1 tie against Alberta, who played in the bronze medal match. (Medal results were unavailable at press time.) Newfoundland then beat New Brunswick 3-0 to reach the match against Yukon.
Yukon opened the Games with a 9-0 loss to Quebec on Saturday and a 6-0 loss to Saskatchewan Sunday.
Being a part of the first win in 12 years and a record finish feels great, said a pair of 13-year-olds on the Yukon squad.
“I feel very proud, “ said midfielder Abby Rich. “I think we pushed ourselves and worked really hard, as hard as we can. I’m just proud of us because we pushed our way through.”
“It’s pretty exciting,” said right back Taliya Lindley. “I’m pretty young on the team, so it’s a big experience for me. It just makes me feel so happy that a bunch of people are going to be watching and supporting me throughout the whole thing. (The crowd) has been pretty big. Everyone has been cheering us on through each game.”
Malorie Hanson was named Yukon’s player of the game in the match against Newfoundland and goalkeeper Jayden Demchuk got a special shout-out from her coach.
“Jayden Demchuk was probably for me the most outstanding female keeper I’ve seen from the Yukon,” said Jake Hanson. “She was so solid for us all tournament that it really helped stabilize our team from the back going forward.
“I’d also have to comment on the performance of three of our youngest players in the tournament — Jasmine Sealy, Taliya Lindley and Abby Rich. They all played huge minutes, started every game for us, and they’re young enough to play at the next Canada Games for us, so that’s a pretty remarkable feat.”
Yukon’s female team went winless in 2013, a Games in which N.W.T. didn’t field a female team. The 2009 Yukon team also went winless and lost their final match to N.W.T. to place last (12th).
“I feel like we made some ground in our ability to be competitive with the middle-of-the-pack teams here,” said Jake Hanson. “If we can continue to build the foundation of our present soccer program and its structure, it’s exciting to think we could continue to compete like this and maybe even get better results in the future.”
New Brunswick defeated N.W.T. 7-0 in the 11th/12th place match on Wednesday.
The male soccer competition will take place in week two of the Games.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org