It was by no means an easy road, but the Elgin Park Orcas wrapped up the senior girls’ soccer season on a high note, finishing as the fourth-best team in the province.
The top-five finish at B.C. AAA championships – the team’s second in as many seasons, after also placing fourth at last year’s tournament – was a testament to the players’ resolve, according to coach Chris Ellett.
This year’s squad, he explained, was full of untested players after losing seven players to graduation last season, yet they still ran through the regular-season undefeated, with the team’s only loss coming in the Fraser Valley finals when they lost to the eventual provincial-champion Fleetwood Park Dragons.
At provincials – held in South Delta from June 2-4 – the Orcas won two games on opening day, beating Correlieu Secondary 6-2 on the strength of four goals from Alyssa Hunt, and following that with a 3-1 win over Charles Best.
Day 2, however, was a tougher test, as the team was struck by “illness, injury and grad,” Ellett said; the tournament schedule coincided with the school’s graduation dinner, which meant the team played without all its Grade 12s.
Elgin Park, playing with 13 remaining players – many of them sick, injured or called up from the school’s younger grades – lost the game 2-1 to South Kamloops, but the team’s lone goal – which came late in the game via penalty kick – was just enough to boost the Orcas into top spot in their pool as a result of goal differential.
Ellett called the marker – scored by Grade 8 Jaymie Caldwell – “the biggest goal of our season.”
The first-place finish propelled the team into semifinals, where – still shorthanded and sick – Elgin Park narrowly dropped a 1-0 game to Handsworth.
Despite the loss, Ellett called it “the most impressive effort I have seen by our team in the 10 years I’ve been coaching.”
“They left it all out on the field,” he added, while singling out goalkeeper Kayla Johnson for her “heroic” work in net against Handsworth.
In the bronze-medal game on Saturday afternoon, the Orcas were defeated by the hosts from South Delta Secondary.
While at first leery about his team’s “handing the torch” off to its younger players after their successful run in 2015, Ellett said the team’s provincial run quelled any fears he might have had.
“It’s clear to me the torch is in good hands moving forward,” he said.