The RSS junior and senior girls’ soccer teams have been kicking up a storm all through May, and the seniors — crowned Kootenay Champions on May 17 — are looking forward to playing at the single-A provincial finals tournament in Victoria June 1-4.
“We’ve only lost to two single-A schools in our league,” coach Rick McKinnon said about the senior team. One of those losses was the first game of the season, so they’re looking solid going into the finals.
“This is by far and away one of the best [teams I’ve coached],” McKinnon said, “and we’re still young, with lots of Grade 10s and 11s.”
McKinnon says the key has been solid teamwork that doesn’t rely on any particular star.
“They play a good system,” he said, noting many compliments he has received on the team’s style of play at the tournaments. “They don’t kick and run. There’s lots of passing and they feed the ball. It’s nice to watch.”
“And the juniors are playing the system too, they dominated up in Nakusp,” he added.
On May 6 and 7, both the junior and senior teams travelled to Nakusp to play in the Nakusp Invitational Soccer tournament. The seniors defeated Crowe 2-0 and Fernie 2-1 before losing to Cranbrook 1-0 and Oliver 2-1 to place fourth out of the 12 teams in the tournament.
In the meantime, the juniors cleaned up, defeating Kimberley 3-0, Nakusp 7-0 and, with only 10 players on May 7, they were still able to defeat Midway 6-1 and Cranbrook in the finals 2-0 to capture the junior championship.
“The juniors dominated to the point that [other teams] complained there was a senior on our team!” McKinnon laughed. There wasn’t, of course, just one Grade 10 player from the senior team played goalie because the junior team was short, but that was well within the rules.
The next weekend, the seniors travelled to Osoyoos to play in the 16-team Rural School Championships. They won all their games through to the semis, but lost 2-1 to Pemberton in the finals.
“We outplayed them,” McKinnon said, “we just couldn’t cash in on our scoring chances, just like the Canuckleheads.”
Just a couple days later, the team returned to Nakusp on May 16 and 17 for the provincial playdowns where eight Kootenay teams fought for a berth in the single-A provincial finals. Rossland didn’t drop the ball, defeating Midway 5-0, Fernie 1-0, Sparwood 7-0, and took Kaslo 5-3 in the semi-finals and Nakusp 2-0 in the finals.
McKinnon couldn’t be more pleased. “They’re all involved, they’re all over the system, the goalie, the defence. I can sub people in left and right and don’t lose anything as far as capability. They work well together.”
“I don’t know what it is,” he mused, “it’s something they enjoy doing, so they tend to flourish more at it. They put that positive attitude and work ethic towards it.”
Looking forward to the finals, McKinnon is confident.
“It looks good,” he said. “The coach from Osoyoos has gone to provincials often and, at the awards ceremony after we played his team, he was really positive about how the girls are playing and told me, you guys can do it.”
On the other hand, the girls will be playing on astroturf and may have to adapt to a different style of play.
“The ball’s going to move a lot quicker and we’ve got grass spikes, not turf spikes,” McKinnon said, noting that when he’s gone to astroturf with the boys’ team, “it affected them big time.”
Although other schools with grass fields will face the same challenge, “private schools are the ones to beat, and they have the turf,” McKinnon explained.
“Once we’re down there, we’ll have to run around and do our thing.”