Caul, Pilots win another bronze

Joey Payeur

After suffering through the torture of having a front row seat to the evaporation of their title hopes, the Providence University College Pilots decided coming home empty-handed was not in the cards for them.
Julika Kehler scored twice and Fort Frances native Jess Caul set up the game-clinching goal to give the No. 2-seeded Pilots from Otterburne, Man., a 4-0 victory over the No. 4-ranked Ohio Christian University Trailblazers (Circleville, Ohio) in the bronze-medal game of the National Christian Colleges Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division II national women’s soccer championship in Kissimmee, Fla., last Saturday.
It marked the second straight year Providence earned bronze and put the exclamation point on Caul’s two-year run with the Pilots.
While the quick-footed striker was disappointed the Pilots were prevented from a shot at the championship due to losing a tiebreaker with No. 3-rated Maranatha Baptist University Sabercats (Watertown, Wisc.) based on most goals scored, she tried to remain positive about the situation.
“I would say that it’s a bittersweet feeling,” confessed Caul.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that we didn’t play our best in our first game and that put us in the position of relying on another team for our chance in the finals,” she added.
“But it was nice to end with a win and knowing we were undefeated at nationals.”
Providence began the tourney with a 1-1 draw against Maranatha, with Caul scoring on a first-half breakaway, only to have the Sabercats tie it in the second half on a long shot just under the crossbar.
Had the Pilots held on for the win, they would have been guaranteed a place in the gold-medal game after blanking the No. 6-ranked Baptist Bible College Defenders (Clarks Summit, Penn.) 2-0 in their other Pool ‘B’ game, with Kehler netting both goals.
Providence was dressed for combat the next day, even though they were hanging out in the bleachers watching Maranatha and Baptist square off.
A goal by the Defenders for a 1-0 win for the Sabercats would have been good enough either to give the Pilots the tiebreaker nod based on least goals allowed or most goals scored.
A 2-0 win for Maranatha would have necessitated a penalty kick shootout between the Sabercats and Pilots that would have happened immediately after the Maranatha-Baptist contest.
But the Sabercats jumped all over the Defenders from the get-go, scoring all their goals in the first half, while Baptist couldn’t break through to get the one goal the Pilots so desperately wished for.
“It was a brutal game to watch,” said Caul ruefully.
“We knew we should have won that game against Maranatha, but we had to put our faith in Baptist and they didn’t pull through, so that was hard.”
It would have been easy for Providence to come out flat against Ohio Christian with their hearts still broken from the day before.
But Caul said a little group communication made a world of difference.
“We had our own separate team meeting without the coaches just to chat about what we needed to do to handle our business and finish on a good note and we made a deal to be there for each other until the end,” detailed Caul.
“It was very important for our seniors that are graduating and us players that weren’t returning,” she continued.
“We needed to end on a good note and make a statement that we were meant to be there and that we should have been in that final.
“Our mindset was just to work for each other and end the season with a win.”
Kehler, who was named the tournament’s most valuable offensive player with her four goals, made a statement early with her goal just 1:18 into the contest against Trailblazers goalkeeper Leandra Griffin.
“I think that we were already so fired up and that just topped it off,” stated Caul about Kehler’s marker.
“It was very hot out and we were still upset about having to play that third-place game, but we pulled it together and fought for that win.”
Robyn Coffey put Providence up by two in the 58th minute before Kehler ripped home her second of the game in the 75th.
It was icing on the cake when Caul made a pass across the Ohio Chrisian six-yard box which found the foot of Navreen Sidhu in the 81st minute.
Pilots goalkeeper Kate Osadchuk, who made the all-tournament team after allowing only one goal in three games, had a 10-save effort in her 80-plus minutes of work before giving way to backup Kiran MacGregor with the game well in hand in the last 10 minutes.
Caul announced the contest was likely her last competitive soccer game at the post-secondary level as she will wrap up her time at Providence this academic year.
She will not soon forget her time in Manitoba.
“My experience with Providence soccer was absolutely amazing,” Caul gushed.
“My coach (Giancarlo Calla) and I would butt heads and argue, but he pushed me because he cared and he saw my potential and that was something that meant the most to me,” stressed Caul.
“Over these two years, he never gave up on me, even when I wanted to quit on myself,” she continued.
“He pushed me and made me a better player for that. To finish this season 16-1-1 and undefeated at nationals is amazing to say. The girls on the team are going to be some of my very best friends for life and they mean so much to me.
“It’s great to share such a great passion with these girls,” enthused Caul.
“I’m so unbelievably grateful for the opportunity that was Providence soccer and I’m so proud.”