The Penticton Pinnacles under-21 teams are prepared to face the pressure to win the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s (PCSL) Challenge Cup, which they host this weekend at King’s Park.
Ray Hintz, coach of the women’s team, said the players put pressure on themselves, as and he does, because they have standards they want to reach.
“We are here to win. It would be kind of disappointing if we don’t,” said Hintz, adding that all four teams (West Vancouver FC, Peninsula Co-op Highlanders and Kelowna United) are strong. “It’s really important for us to try and defend it (Bill Gillespie Challenge Cup). I would love to see the girls defend their title on our home turf. We have never won a title on home turf.
“It would be great to see that happen this weekend,” continued Hintz.
The Pinnacles (8-4-0) face West Vancouver FC (7-4-1) in their semifinal match, while Peninsula Co-op (9-1-2) and Kelowna United (4-8-0) play in the other. The winners advance to the final.
Hintz knows what they are up against as West Vancouver FC is a club that likes to attack. They have the league’s leading scorer in Daniela Smith (13 goals). Part of the plan will be to start with a strong defence to contain the dangerous attackers. Once they do that, the Pinnacles want to counter. Knowing what’s at stake, Hintz said they won’t sit back and play defence all game.
Adding to the challenge are some roster adjustments. While the Pinnacles have been without leading scorer Melanie Shannon for a month, LaDawn Latawiec, who scored five goals on the season, has to sit one game after receiving a red card in their final match. Brianne Hrynyk, Bryanne Francisco and Alana Parker have stepped up in Shannon’s absence. Crystal Schuder, who helped the Pinnacles win the Challenge Cup last year, has rejoined the team and Hintz said she adds speed to their attack.
On the men’s side, Pinnacles player/coach Wyatt Seddon-Johnstone said it’s important that they put pressure on themselves to perform.
“I think this team does well under pressure,” he said. “It will help them play even better.”
The Pinnacles ended the season with back-to-back wins, 2-0 over Kelowna United on goals by Cole Kingzett and Mwiza Singogo, then a 4-2 decision over the Mid Isle Highlanders. Randy Hubber netted the winner and insurance marker, leaving him second in league with 10 goals.
What Seddon-Johntone liked about the last win was their defensive play. Their focus will continue on that side of the ball as scoring isn’t a concern.
“We’re good enough to really improvise and do well with that attacking improvisation,” said Seddon-Johnstone.
The Pinnacles (9-3-1) will take on the Victoria Highlanders (5-5-3), who the Pinnacles lost to once and tied. The Mid Isle Highlanders (10-1-1) take on West Vancouver FC (4-7-1) in the other semifinal. Seddon-Johnstone said the Pinnacles were still establishing their identity in that loss. Now he sees steady improvement.
“It kind of looks like they are a team that seems to be going down instead of up,” said Seddon-Johnstone of Highlanders FC. “I’m very confident that we can get a result against them.”
Seddon-Johnstone is looking forward to the weekend and said, “our energy levels will be sky high.”
Like the women’s team, there are some roster changes. Javier Solorzano is out with a knee injury sustained during their coastal trip, while Kingzett, Ryan Jerry and Andrew Stevenson decided to rest before the start of their UBC-O Heat training camp. Pinnacles who could stand out are Mwiza Singogo, Fabrice Fanfani and Rico Patrocinio, who are late additions to the squad.
“I think Mwiza Singogo, he has had back-to-back good games,” said Seddon-Johnstone. “Both times subbed in, he’s come in and made a difference. He’s flying high right now. We are going to try and feed off of that.”
Fanfani has brought a solid presence in the middle and is strong defensively. He also moves the ball well. Patrocinio, Seddon-Johnstone said, is the definition of professional.
“He’s a very solid player. He is easily coachable,” said Seddon-Johnstone, who likes Patrocinio’s simplicity with the ball. Patrocinio joined the Pinnacles late last year too after playing in Mexico.
The PSCL Challenge Cup begins Saturday for the Premier and Reserve divisions. Semifinals for both are at 1:30 and 4 p.m. The Pinnacles play at 1:30 p.m. The finals are Sunday at 11 a.m. for the Reserve division and 1 p.m. for the Premier.