Members of the NSS Cougar soccer squad pose for their last team picture of the 2015 season after placing 8th out of 16 at the BCSS Provincial Tournament in Surrey.

Members of the NSS Cougar soccer squad pose for their last team picture of the 2015 season after placing 8th out of 16 at the BCSS Provincial Tournament in Surrey.

Nakusp Cougars wore silver on the field, but had gold in their hearts

The 2015 provincial tournament was hosted by Southridge School in Surrey, B.C. and coordinated by teacher/coach Gordon Smith.

RYAN WILLMAN

Arrow Lakes News

The Nakusp Secondary School girls’ soccer team punched their provincial ticket by clinching a last second win during their zone finals against Boundary Central on May 13. The win afforded the girls an opportunity to travel to Surrey and compete against 15 other teams who represent the best single A soccer in the province. The BC School Sports (BCSS) provincial tournament is an annual competition where 16 teams from a provincial pool of over 60 single A high school soccer squads playoff for the coveted BCSS banner. Entry into the tournament is limited to those teams who win a zone final thus earning the right to represent their region on the provincial stage.

The 2015 provincial tournament was hosted by Southridge School in Surrey, B.C. and coordinated by teacher/coach Gordon Smith. The tournament was organized into three stages of matches; in the first round, teams were divided into four pools by commissioner, Don Moslin, based on a provincial ranking rubric. Games were played in a round robin format with points awarded for wins and ties. Teams emerged from the round robin with a pool rank and then entered into a playoff tree to play a crossover game against a team with a similar rank from another pool. The crossover game determined where teams exited the playoff tree and what place they would battle for in their final match.

Nakusp was pooled with North Island, Burns Lake and their old rival and provincial mainstay matchup, Immaculata. The round robin kicked off with a match against North Island as the girls faced off on a turf field, nicknamed, “the postage stam,” so named by its small dimensions, at Southridge. Trouble started early in the game as both teams, sporting healthy and rested rosters, collided on the pitch in a fresh and feverish start to the tournament. The Cougars found themselves in an early deficit when an unfortunate trip inside the 18 yard box translated into a penalty kick from the dot. Down one, the Cougars wasted no time with their response when smart passing from Ashley Friedenberger and Katira Niquidet opened up an offensive lane for midfielder Kira Streliev who confidently hammered the ball past the North Island keeper for the equalizer.

Coming out of the half-time break, the Cougars battled with heart and purpose against the North Island squad, but hesitation in the middle lanes and a mounting collection of technical mistakes caused the momentum to shift slowly in favor of North Island. The match started to slip away from the Cougars as the score turned into a 1-3 deficit. Digging deep into their gravel, the Cougars managed to compensate for their errors with sheer will and determination, as pure hard play from clutch players Rene Goodman, Ivy Tournad and Kira Streliev salvaged the game with a disheartening, but tolerable draw at 3-3.

The second match against Immaculata ended with a tough 0-8 loss, as the Cougars’ shortfalls were exposed by a well-rounded and disciplined team. Immaculata would continue on to win the tournament during a championship game against the hosts, Southridge.

The final match of the round robin was played on Thursday morning against the Burns Lake squad and instead of being punished for their mistakes, the game rewarded the Cougars’ strengths. Played mostly along the touchline with a plethora of throw-ins, the Cougars dug out a solid match against a solid opponent and found the net three times while shutting out the Burns Lake offence. The early morning win secured a second place finish in the pool for the Cougars.

The crossover match pitted Nakusp against Langley Christian, who had likewise finished second in their own pool. The Cougars attacked the grass field with a ferocious intensity that was matched by a willingness to learn from their mistakes and rise to the level of soccer that was expected from the provincial tournament. Playing what could be considered their best 35 minutes of the season, the Cougars rallied Langley Christian to a 1-1 tie going into the half-time break. Unfortunately, the second half of the game was claimed by the opposing team, as the majority of the match was played with the Cougars on defence. Unable to turn away every shot on net, Cougar keeper Adriel Goodman heroically gave everything she could to the team, but did not get the support she needed from the field and was forced to concede to a 1-3 loss.

The provincial narrative was now a story for seventh or eighth place as the Cougars faced off against the Osoyoos Secondary School Rattlers for the final match. Both teams were hurting, bruised and battered from the taxing ordeal of playing five provincial level soccer games in the course of 48 hours. The final was more about survival than skill. The Cougars were thrown against the ropes early in the game and faced an uphill battle that continued to get steeper as the goals mounted against them. The final whistle blew down the game and the Cougars earned an eighth place finish with a 0-3 loss.