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Yukon soccer teams finish club nationals on high notes

It was another tough go for Yukon Davids against provincial Goliaths at Soccer Canada's National Club Championships that ended Monday.

It was another tough go for Yukon Davids against provincial Goliaths at Soccer Canada’s National Club Championships that ended Monday.

Two Yukon Strikers rep teams went winless in their respective divisions, but didn’t go down without a fight.

The Strikers’ U-16 female team at the U-16 Cup in Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland, and the U-14 male team at the U-14 Cup in Charlottetown, P.E.I., both had a pair of close matches.

“When we go to nationals, we go there to become a better team, not really to place or anything,” said U-16 Strikers player Aleyx Smith. “We usually have a really good time playing together and getting better as a team. We get super happy even if we win one game or score a goal.”

After four shut-out losses to start the championship, Smith helped her team avoid a fifth. Smith scored from 18 yards out on the Strikers’ final scoring chance, in the final minute, in their final match - an 8-1 loss to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Our second game and our last game were the greatest for me because we played really awesome,” said Smith. “Even though we lost both of them, we played really well and our team was playing really well together.

“In our last game our team was really tired, but we still played really well to the end. And I got a goal, which was really awesome.”

“The first two games we ended up playing teams that finished second and third, so we were overpowered a bit in those two games,” said Strikers head coach Jake Hanson. “In the other three games the play was pretty close.”

The U-16 Strikers started the championship with a 10-0 loss to Alberta, who went on to place third. They then lost 8-0 to Manitoba’s FC Northwest, who finished second, 4-0 to New Brunswick and 3-0 to P.E.I.‘s Hillsborough United.

With five matches in six days at the nationals, the Strikers’ short bench of 14 players were feeling it.

“We just didn’t have the legs in the last game, that’s why that one ended up being a lopsided score line,” said Hanson.

“You’re allowed to roster 20, I think, and most of the teams had at least 18.”

The U-14 Strikers in Charlottetown also finished the championships in a high note. They had their closest match with a 3-2 loss to P.E.I.‘s Eastern Eagles S.C.

“We got better as we went along,” said U-14 Strikers co-head coach Edwin Vanderkley. “The boys didn’t play up to their potential at all. We did that Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Cup a month or so ago (winning silver) and the boys really played a lot better at that. I didn’t see them play up to that level until the last game.”

Yukon took a 2-1 lead over the Eastern Eagles before falling behind. Scoring for the Strikers were centre midfielder Simon Kishchuk and outside midfielder Felix Maltais, scoring his second of the championships.

“(Maltais) was our super sub,” said Vanderkley. “He was never a starter of a game, but he’d come in and score goals for us.”

“They really started to gel in that last game - one more game and I think we would have won it,” he added.

The U-14 Strikers opened with a 14-0 loss to Alberta, who went on to take silver. They then fell 4-1 to P.E.I.‘s Winsloe-Charlottetown Royals and 5-0 to Saskatchewan United.

Before the start of the championships the Strikers lost 2-0 to another P.E.I. team in an exhibition match.

“We just don’t stand a chance against Alberta, they are one of the strongest clubs in Canada all the time, and our hope is always to keep them under 10,” said Vanderkley.

“Against the other teams, we were actually in each of the games. But what happens is the boys have little mental lapses that I think come from not playing at the competitive level of soccer all the time like the other teams do.

“So the scores aren’t really indicative of the play ... The last three games were all fairly close in play. We would just give up some brain-fart goals once in a while.”

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