Their final five minutes on the pitch together will be ones they remember for a lifetime.
After a decade playing together, Yukon’s junior female soccer team made magic happen before parting ways at the Arctic Winter Games.
The Yukon squad saved some of their best play for the final minutes en route to gold in indoor soccer at the Games on Saturday.
“In the last five minutes the adrenaline kicked in and we just played harder than ever and just finished really strong,” said Yukon co-captain Samantha Wintemure.
“It feels really good. It was our last game together, so it was a good way to end off. At the beginning we said we’d end off with a bang and we definitely did.”
“It’s perfect. This is probably the last time we’ll play together as a team because most of us are going off to university and to bring home another gold medal is perfect,” said co-captain Jaylene Kelly. “I think we played very well. I think one of our best games was our last game.”
Yukon took gold in a 5-1 win over Team Northwest Territories. The team went undefeated with five wins at the tournament to give Yukon a second straight gold in the division.
Five of the players on Yukon’s junior team played for the gold-winning 2012 team. Almost all of them have been playing together for about a decade on rep teams.
“I’ve been coaching these girls since they were eight years old,” said head coach Charly Kelly. “So they’ve been together for so long that they just instinctively know where everyone is playing. My coaching style has maybe changed a bit since I’ve taken courses and gone through, but the messaging they’ve been getting is extremely similar.
“This is definitely an emotional time for me because this is it,” she added. “It’s a good ending.”
The Yukon team capped off their time together with three goals in 20 seconds in the last minutes to erase any chance of an N.W.T. comeback.
Up with a slim 2-1 lead, Yukon’s Camille Galloway fought in the corner to get a pass out to Wintemute wide open in front to score.
Ten seconds later it happened again like an instant replay – Galloway from the corner to Wintemute in front – to make it 4-2 with 1:35 left.
Hannah Milner then drove in the final nail in N.W.T.‘s coffin, scoring on a rebound with 1:25 left.
Yukon, who defeated Nunavut 5-1 in the semifinal, beat N.W.T. 4-3 in the round-robin in their closest match of the tournament.
“We sort of knew how they were going to play and we knew their key players, so we tried to push them off the ball more,” said Jaylene. “Once we had more possession of the ball, they started getting down and we started getting more excited and pushing more to get another goal.”
It was a tense first half in the final. Yukon’s Cheyenne Ryan passed to Jaylene who buried it top corner with 4:35 left. It was the first real shot for either team in the match other than a couple of tumblers bouncing in.
Galloway scored a minute and a half later on a pass from striker Rachel Kinvig.
N.W.T.‘s only threat in the first half was a tight-angle shot out of a corner that Yukon goalkeeper Samantha Burgis had some trouble with, slipping from hand to hand like a bar of soap, but she kept it out of the net.
Burgis was a trooper in the tournament. She played all week with a knee injury sustained in a basketball tournament before the Games. She also took a foot to the face in the semifinal and spoke through a clinched jaw after that.
“The medical here has been phenomenal and they helped her out and she’s played great,” said Charly.
N.W.T. got on the board with a goal from a free-kick midway through the second half.
With her two second-half goals Wintermute was second in scoring in the tournament with seven. Galloway was third in the standings with five.
Milner and Ryan tied for fourth in the tournament with four.
“I’m usually the one who gets more assists than goals,” said Wintemure. “This tournament I actually got more goals than assists so it kind of feels good.”
“It’s just been really fun,” she added. “I love this team, this is our last tournament together, so it’s just been bitter-sweet.”
While it was a second straight gold for the team’s five returners, one player has quite a bit more ulu gold on her trophy shelf.
Saturday marked Kinvig’s 10th gold in her Arctic Games career. She won nine straight gold medals in dog mushing at the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Games.
“This was her first team medal, it was a different experience for her,” said Charly. “Rachel was our new player … This team does everything together. We eat together, they hang out together. There’s not a time when there is a split in the team and Rachel fit in wonderfully.”
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