It was fitting that in a season where there hadn’t been too much separation between the teams that the championship game ended up the same way.
When the La Place Rendez-Vous Voyageurs (11-4-1 during the regular season) and Al’s Racquet Stringing (10-4-2) met up in the Borderland Soccer Association’s women’s final last Thursday at the St. Francis Sports Fields, things played out just as tightly.
Al’s was able to earn a 2-1 comeback win over the Voyageurs to claim its first league title since 2002, when Curves for Women sponsored the team.
It was the team’s first trip to the final since 2006, also as Curves.
Al’s player Catherine McGuire admitted it was tough to get up and going against the youthful and speedy Voyageurs, who primarily were made up of Muskie players and have been in pressure situations in recent months, making it all the way to the NorWOSSA final before falling to the Kenora Broncos.
McGuire said nerves were a little more apparent on the Al’s side early on the game, with Wynona Kavanagh netting a goal to put the Voyageurs up 1-0.
But that goal was a turning point, added McGuire, as it put Al’s into fight-or-flight mode, with fight winning out.
“[The nervousness] wears off and after that first goal, we all just said, ‘We’ve got to get the job done,’” recalled McGuire, who lauded keeper Taylor Meyers for making some key saves to keep the team close.
Nicole Rogozinski of Al’s also had high praise for Meyers, who kept calm even with the 1-0 deficit.
“Our goal was just not to have any more goals scored against us,” Rogozinski reasoned.
“Taylor can pretty much save anything, so when you have her in net, you don’t really need to worry if it gets past the defence.
“99 percent of the time, she gets it.”
Eventually, Rebecca Cornell and Katie McTavish came through to help Al’s grab a lead they did not relinquish.
Rogozinski said Al’s took a little bit of motivation from playing the younger team as they felt they had a little bit extra to prove.
On the other hand, though, games in the league primarily are played to keep active and social, so wins and losses aren’t paramount.
“We had lots of adrenaline,” Rogozinski added. “We didn’t want the young kids to show us up in the final game.
“Honestly, we’re just out there to have a good time.
“Everybody wants to win,” she conceded. “You have a little bit of competitiveness inside you, but when we got down 1-0, we didn’t really let it bother us.
“If we won, we were happy, but if we lost, we still would have been happy.”
Al’s featured a mix of university-aged players, including some former Muskies, as well as some players who didn’t pick up the sport until adulthood, such as McGuire, who appreciated the chance to play alongside some seasoned players.
“They work together well and they can explain to us what they would like us other players, who haven’t had as much soccer experience, where they want us in certain situations.
“We, fortunately, listen to them, and it works out very well,” she lauded.
Voyageurs’ coach Dennis Roach praised Al’s for its top-to-bottom lineup, which joined some young but experienced players with some relative newcomers to the game.
He added that, ultimately, the team with a bit more history was able to come away with the championship.
“They played smart and I just think that they just collectively got all their experience together,” he remarked.
“All of that experience came together at the right time.
“They had been coming on strongly, developing their team from the beginning and getting stronger all the way through,” Roach added.
“Going in, we knew we were going into a battle.”
Roach said both teams were substituting players often in an attempt to avoid any heat- or fatigue-related injuries, but also maintained a steady rotation of fresh legs on the field to keep the level of play at a fever pitch.
“The game was fast all the way through,” he recalled. “Al’s subbed quite quickly, also, and it allowed us to keep the pace of the game fast.
“That game could have went either way, and there was absolutely no shame in losing to Al’s,” Roach stressed.
“They’re a fantastic team.”
Roach said while his team angled to do well in the Borderland Soccer Association’s season, it had an eye towards building the Muskie team for years to come by more than doubling the length of the high school season.
“They’ve gotten two extra months of playing time, and it just really shows,” he enthused.
“Soccer teams can’t be an individual effort,” he stressed. “It takes all positions playing in unison, and they’ve really developed that this season.
“We tried players in different spots just to give them a little experience in that area, to see that position from a different perspective,” Roach added.
“Say, a forward, playing them in a midfield position so that they know what the midfielders are looking at when they’re playing forward,” he explained.