PORT McNEILL—Kim Cardwell enjoyed quite the birthday bash Monday.
She was serenaded with Happy Birthday by teammates from the school’s senior girls soccer squad, shared a giant, pink-frosted cake provided by her mom, Guylaine Longpré, and unwrapped gifts of Island A Championship Tournament victories over Gold River and Port Hardy Secondary.
Best of all? The whole thing happened in the comfort of home.
The NISS girls soccer program hosted the Island A Championships, the qualifying tournament for B.C.’s provincial finals, for the first time this week. Featuring teams from Victoria, Duncan, Gold River and Port Hardy in addition to the host club, the Island Championships were played to determine the Island’s two berths into provincials, to be played the first week of June in Rossland.
“I like it better at home,” said Cardwell, a Grade 12 student who has been in the program for five years and who has twice competed with the Norsemen in the provincial championships. “It’s fun to have the whole school out watching you play.”
To watch the team again, fans will have to travel to Rossland, where NISS will play after clinching a berth with wins in its first three games this week.
NISS’s final game, against top-ranked Glenlyon Norfolk, ended Tuesday after the Gazette went to press.
Sarrah Moore, Jenna McMahon and Jenna Cowan all scored goals as NISS stretched a slender 2-1 lead over the final 40 minutes of play. The real highlight came early, when Grade 10 player Melissa Pohto, a first-year player from Sointula, scored her first goal on a nifty header.
Danielle Dawson answered for Port Hardy, but the Norsemen kept the Whalers pinned in their own end for much of the remainder of the contest and eventually pulled away.
The championships were the first on the North Island since PHSS hosted the senior boys A tournament in the fall of 2011. They were arranged by longtime NISS girls manager Kathy Mitchell.
“We heard it was the North’s turn to host this year,” said Mitchell. “So I talked to (vice principal) Jay Dixon and he said, ‘OK, what do we need to do?’”
Mitchell had to secure certified officials, brought from down-Island, and arrange field scheduling and other incidentals. It all seemed worth it as she watched the girls with cake and frosting-streaked faces and uniforms after Monday’s wins.
“It’s a good team,” said Cardwell, who has gone from fresh-faced newcomer to elder stateswoman in her five years with the club. “They’ve improved a lot this year, and they communicate really well.”
Head coach Dwayne Rudy concurred.
“We’ve got some finishers this year, for a change,” he said. “That’s why Kim had to develop that cannon for a leg — for taking all those long shots the last few years.”