Team Yukon’s juvenile soccer squads are primed and ready to go come the Arctic Winter Games in a little over a week.
Both squads – which were registered as the Yukon Strikers – won hardware at the Slush Cup indoor soccer tournament in Edmonton over the weekend.
Yukon’s juvenile females won silver and the juvenile males took bronze in Tier 2 under-16 divisions.
“The girls played really well,” said juvenile females head coach Jacob Hanson. “Going down I was unsure how we’d be able to manage, considering the maximum roster size for the tournament is 20. I knew, going in, we’d be playing teams of at least 15 players. In Alberta they tend to play more like hockey where they’ll roll three lines. And we were travelling with one less line; we had 10 girls travelling. So I was concerned about our ability to manage the minutes and maintain the tempo, but I thought our girls did a good job of keeping shape and managing games well.”
The female squad took silver with two wins and a loss. They defeated Edmonton’s Victoria SC 5-4 to open the tournament, holding on for the win after finishing the first half up 4-1. Putting Yukon on the board were Mikaela Ponsioen, Aimee Parker, Jamie Joe-Hudson, Jamie McLeish with the game-winner from Malorie Hanson.
Yukon then topped Calgary Villains Magic FC 4-0. Malorie scored twice while Ponsioen and Aleyxandra Smith put in individual goals. Goalkeeper Sandy Dubois logged the shutout.
“That was an interesting game because the girls had watched that team play earlier in the day in a close game against the team (Yukon) ended up losing against in the final,” said Jacob. “Our girls expected a closer game, but our girls had control from start to finish. They played quite a strong game and the other team never really threatened.”
Yukon lost 2-1 to Calgary’s Blizzard Dynamo in the gold medal match. Yukon’s Smith scored with eight minutes left to narrow the gap to one goal.
“We out-chanced the other team, but we didn’t finish,” said Jacob. “We had a lot of really good scoring chances. Sandy Dubois made good saves on our end of the field, but on the other end there were some chances we should have finished but didn’t.”
After dropping their first match, Yukon’s juvenile males won two straight for the bronze.
They pocketed the medal with a 4-1 win over the Sherwood Park Phoenix. Callum Ryan, Mackenzie Shaw, Skyler Bryant and Tristan Rentmeister each scored for Yukon.
“We built the team together,” said Yukon head coach Victor Lavanderos. “We don’t have one player doing the job, everybody was doing the job. That’s what I’m happy about. We played like a team.”
Yukon advanced into the bronze medal match with a 6-1 win over the Wolves Black from Grande Prairie, Alta. Ryan, Shaw and Justin Wishart-MacDougall each scored and Rentmeister bagged a hat trick.
“We controlled the second game, started going forward when we needed,” said Lavanderos. “We scored three goals in four minutes right away in the first half.”
Yukon opened with a 5-1 loss to Mill Woods Selects. The Strikers avoided the shutout with a goal from Malcolm Muir.
“The team played really well,” said Lavanderos. “In the first game we tried to play a little too much with the ball. Over there the game is very physical and very fast. And there were lots of penalties – we took too long on a free kick and that was a penalty.
“We took a lot of penalties in that game.”
Stars of Arctic Games to come also took to the pitch in Edmonton with Yukon’s Junior Selects competing in the under-12 Tier 2 division.
The Junior Selects placed fifth with an 8-1 thumping of the Edmonton Victoria SC. Joseph Hanson scored four goals, Ben Kishchuk had two, while Ashton Bryant and Chad Williams also found the back of the net.
The Junior Selects opened with a 7-3 loss to Calgary EMFC United before a 6-4 loss to Lethbridge’s Coaldale Thunder.
“Generally speaking, it was a really good event,” said Jacob. “Not too often over the years have our teams got out to indoor tournaments. Most of our travel is during the summer time at outdoor events.
“This event, they advertise it as the largest indoor soccer tournament in the world. It runs all over Edmonton, we played in Leduc, Sherwood Park, East Centre, South Centre … The kids just had an absolute blast.”
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