It was four times the charm for the Penticton Pinnacles FC U18 boys who after three straight years of hunting for gold at provincials nabbed it last weekend.
Having earned a silver and two bronzes in previous years, the U18 boys defeated Vancouver Coastal in the finals 3-1 to earn their gold bauble at the B provincials.
“They were a strong and physical team but the whole key for us during the provincials was teams didn’t know how to approach us because we played a tactic called low-pressure defending and none of the teams could penetrate us,” said coach Murali Venkataraman. “They were very confused and getting frustrated.”
Venkataraman said it comes as a huge compliment to the Pinnacles FC that coaches, refs and others were coming up to them after the game saying they were impressed by the strategy. The tactic, said Venkataraman, is something that all teams across the Pinnacles FC have been incorporating since executive director Ezra Cremers came into the fold. It is a European style of playing with quick, short passes that emphasize a possession- style game. Venkataraman said his team completely embraced the concept after winning regionals against Salmon Arm which took them to provincials. And, the U18 boys dominated on the pitch in their first game with goaltender Marc Klering earning a 1-0 shutout against Bulkley Valley. The team then dominated their second game against Surrey ISCF but Venkataraman said they couldn’t finish on the opportunities they were given and ended up with a 1-1 tie. Needing to defeat Prince George to advance to the finals Penticton goalie Laurenz Schirrmeister secured the win, shutting them out 2-0.
“The scores of the game don’t reflect the amount of chances we had. We just didn’t finish our opportunities. We did really well defending, moving up the field and holding onto the ball. A lot of that was because of our fitness and the training we did with Sean Bacon allowed us to keep running,” said Venkataraman. “To me with this style of play it really is the whole team attacking together. It takes one person to score the actual goal, but in reality it takes the whole team to give that player the opportunity and the boys did that with a total team effort.”
With a shortened bench of just one sub, the Penticton Pinnacles FC U18 girls managed to hold on to take the bronze medal in the B provincials defeating Comox Valley 2-1.
“We were expecting to go back and win gold again but we had a few girls that had to leave on Saturday so I was down to 12 players in the medal game. We went up 2-0 and were playing very well but then the team ran out of gas and just held on,” said coach Derrick Webb. “Overall we played very well on the weekend, we just couldn’t catch any breaks.”
The team kicked off the tournament with a 2-1 win against Terrace but missed opportunities in their second match against Surrey United they had the tables turned on them with a 2-1 loss.
“We out-chanced them and had possession for most of the game but they got a couple of lucky breaks with a hand ball called and they scored on a penalty kick,” said Webb. “We hit two posts, one cross bar and we just couldn’t score. Had we tied that game we would have gone into the finals and played Victoria’s Lakehill, who ended up winning the provincials.”
The U18 girls then found their scoring groove and defeated North Shore 7-0, with Caitlyn Spooner earning the shutout. Leading the team in scoring over the weekend was Shayla Hearne with three and Emily Jones and Alix Varchol with two goals each.
The U14 boys had some tough bounces and couldn’t repeat the success they had last season at provincials when they returned with a medal.
This time around they finished in sixth place at provincials held in Prince George on the weekend.
“We were missing a few players and had an injury to a defender which really hurt us. Other than that I thought the boys played really well and just to get to provincials is a huge achievement,” said coach Joe Afonso.
Two of their stronger matches came in their first and third games. Afonso said even though they lost to Terrace 4-2 all 15 players were exceptional.
“I thought we worked hard we just came up short. We were up in the beginning but they caught us by surprise in the second half,” said Afonso. “The third game we beat Prince George 1-0 and we played really well opening scoring right in the first half and holding onto it.”
With a win, a loss and two ties at provincials the U16 girls finished in fifth overall.
“It was a good weekend and good football,” said coach Carlos Mendonca. “We played defensive and probably played the best we have all season except for being able to finish off around the net. I’m very proud of the girls.”
The team only gave up three goals over their provincials run, but deposited just two themselves. After losing their first match 1-0 to Kelowna United the U16 girls entered into a goalkeepers duel in a 0-0 tie against the North Shore Vipers. Mendonca said Penticton goaltender Natasha Reimer played outstanding, adding the Vipers goalie also made some key saves off a free kick and another ball labelled for the top corner.
“Marisa Mendonca then broke through three players on the wing and curled a ball for the far post that everybody was on their feet about thinking it was going in but the goalie made a fantastic save with her fingertips,” said the coach.
Penticton’s Elizabeth Bradley put a ball past the Coastal champion Ladner Vipers goalie to give them 1-0 lead in the third game. Webb said just two minutes later Ladner snuck one by them off a free kick to end the match 1-1. In their final game, against Nelson, Reimer had another shutout and Mendonca scored the winner. The coach said again they played a strong possession game, stringing together 16 passes in a row.