Penticton’s under-21 Pinnacles rule the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Reserve division.
It’s a first in the Penticton Soccer Club’s history that the men’s and women’s teams won the championship in the same year.
Playing side by side at Town Centre West and East in Coquitlam on Sunday, both clubs could hear the cheers from their respective fields.
“This year is special,” said Pinnacles Greenscape Landscaping women’s coach Ray Hintz, whose team edged the Mid Isle Highlanders 2-1 to bring home the Bill Gillespie Challenge Cup. “We have been there before. For some it’s their third championship. This one is special because of all the stuff we had to go through.”
The main challenge was working different players into the lineup the entire year. Frustration was felt by the players and Hintz, who said it was one of his toughest seasons coaching at that level. Despite the offensive numbers, 31 goals in 16 games, not being where Hintz preferred, the players got the job done.
“To see the girls work so hard, they had determination this week,” he said. “We played with a lot of heart and determination. We had that will to win. The girls really wanted it this year. To prove everybody wrong.”
The Pinnacles defeated top-ranked TSS Black Academy 3-1 to advance to the final. Brittnay Loney opened the scoring for the Pinnacles in the first five minutes of the championship game. The Highlanders tied it about 12 minutes later on a defensive miscue, but Nicolle Fraser sealed the winner with a laser shot in the corner.
“It’s amazing,” said Pinnacles captain Alana Parker of their feat. “It’s been a long time coming. I have been playing for four years and that was the first year that we won it. We were the underdogs coming in. We just squeaked in on a few lucky games on our part. We really came together.”
Along with winning the championship, Pinnacles defender Mila Miller was named tournament MVP. Parker said Miller’s performance was “amazing,” but added she always does.
“Very strong, reliable player,” said Parker. “Even when she thinks she plays bad, she’s probably one of the best players out on that pitch.”
Miller said her MVP recognition is a reflection of the season.
“We could have easily given that to our goalkeeper Emily (Edmundson) because she is amazing. One of the best goalies I’ve played with.”
Miller, who played four years with the Warner Pacific College Knights in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, added that Edmundson and Parker helped her become a better player.
The Tim Horton’s Pinnacles won the Challenge Cup, the first time in their seven seasons. After defeating Chilliwack 4-1, the Pinnacles doubled up Abbotsford Magnuson-Ford Mariners 4-2, who they lost both regular season games against. Austin Jones, Mackenzie Rigg, Randy Hubber and Enzo Paul scored.
Hubber buried the winner.
“I don’t think words can describe it really,” said Hubber of his winner. “After I scored I didn’t know what to do.”
Hubber, who finished second in league scoring with nine goals and was named Challenge Cup MVP, said they played well.
“We came into the game with the arrogance that we weren’t going to lose and that helped us a lot,” he said.
Giving the Pinnacles that swagger was the large margin by which they won their last few games by a combined score of 13-0.
“We knew we were good and we just proved it,” he said.
Pinnacles coach Paulo Araujo said his group performed very well. Araujo said his group played their best “football of the year.”
“They kept growing stronger as the season went,” said Araujo, who also coached the under-18 boys team to a provincial championship this season. “This weekend we really came together as a team.”
When asked what winning the championship meant, Araujo said it’s a “good feeling for a little town from the Okanagan to go down to the coast and put on a good show.”
“It shows that there is really good footballers here in the Okanagan,” said Araujo.
With a laugh, Araujo added it would be good for teams like the Vancouver Whitecaps to start looking at players here. Araujo said that he feels the win puts Penticton on the map.
What impressed him about their win is how the players prepared. They acted like professionals. The Pinnacles had a 2-0 lead against the Mariners, who fought back. It’s at that moment Araujo said teams tend to lose momentum. The players kept their composure and Araujo kept his leaders on the field and everything came together. Then Hubber became the hero.
“It was fantastic how they were able to handle themselves in the change of momentum like that,” he said. “It was exciting. All the players that were on the bench ran onto the field. They were very ecstatic.”
Hubber said the atmosphere was good thanks to a strong contingent of fans. As for earning MVP honors, Hubber said “it’s pretty huge.”
“It was just a dream, really,” he said.