It wasn’t exactly the runner-up finish the program managed two years ago, but the North Island Secondary School senior girls soccer team went out with a bang in the closely contested Provincial A Championships last weekend in Rossland.
An injured Kim Cardwell came off the bench to score a hat trick and goalkeeper Karina Cann stopped a pair of shootout shots as NISS pulled out a 4-3 shootout victory over Kaslo Saturday in the 11th-place game of the provincial tourney in Rossland.
Cardwell, who nearly missed the game after suffering a back injury earlier in the tournament, scored in the shootout along with teammates Whitney Murgatroyd, Natalie Chester and Jenna McMahon. Cardwell was then honoured with selection to the Commissioner’s 16 during the post-tournament banquet.
“We could never have ended the year on a better note — other than winning the gold medal — than we did today,” head coach Dwayne Rudy said. “Kim, a graduating player who thought she would never get into the game, came off the bench to lead her team to victory with a hat trick. McMahon and Cann stepped up to share the goaltending duties when the team needed a goaltender. This week the junior players stepped into the fire and came out hard as steel. Every member of this team contributed.”
It was — with one notable exception — a tournament of razor-close finishes for the NISS girls, who played to a scoreless draw and a 1-0 loss in pool play and suffered a 2-1 shootout loss in their playoff semifinal. Their other game was a one-sided defeat in pool play to eventual provincial champion Immaculata School of Kelowna, a private school with 17 returning veterans that claimed its fourth championship in seven years.
“Our team is mainly composed of younger girls,” Rudy noted. “We only have five players graduating this year, and we have twelve players in grade ten and below. The experience gathered during this tournament will help us in the future, but our lack of competing at this level really hurt us.”
NISS opened the tourney last Thursday with a 1-0 loss to Kimberly despite dominating the run of play in the second half. Cardwell was tabbed as the team’s player of the game. The loss to Immaculata followed, with Kaitlyn Lasota earning player of the game honours. NISS wrapped up pool play by playing Bulkley Valley to a scoreless draw, with Murgatroyd netting player of the game honours.
The tiebreaker formula gave NISS the third seed in the four-team pool over Bulkley Valley and the squad went on to the playoff round to face Nakusp in what turned out to be a bitterly contested semifinal. Melissa Pohto converted off a nifty pass from Tasha Cadwallader to take a 1-0 lead, but Nakusp stunned the Norsemen in the final minute when a player surrounded by NISS defenders took a crossing pass near the post and managed to evade the traffic and Cann’s goalkeeping efforts to score the tying marker. After a 15-minute overtime failed to settle matters, Nakusp prevailed in a shootout after Cann’s opening shot banged off the corner of the post.
“This game provided a lot of chances, drama and excitement as the Nakusp coach and a player were both ejected from the game,” Rudy said. “I was very proud of our team. They were showing sportsmanship and discipline when the opposition wasn’t.”
The provincial appearance was the fourth in six years for NISS, which placed second in the Island A championships as host two weeks earlier.