The season may have came to an end a little earlier than they would have liked but both the Rainy River Owls girls’ and boys’ soccer teams battled hard and earned silver at the NorWOSSA ‘A’ playoffs in Kenora last week.
After finishing the regular season in second place with a 3-2-1 record, the girls’ squad opened the playoffs with a semi-final clash against the third-place Sioux Lookout Warriors last Thursday afternoon.
In ultimately what proved to be a much stiffer challenge than what they were anticipating, the Owls were able to defeat the Warriors 2-1 after a penalty kick shootout.
Erika Gerula netted the squad’s lone goal in regulation time while four shooters were needed to pull out the victory.
Grace Kooistra, Lara Wood, Gerula all tallied in the shootout to help the Owls’ earn the berth into the championship game against the top-ranked host St. Thomas Aquinas Saints on Friday morning.
“The semifinal game was not our best game but we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth,” Owls’ coach Rebecca Tolen conceded.
“It was one I was happy to just get through, we played much better the next day.”
Indeed the Owls did, although they came up just short in a narrow 1-0 setback to the Saints the next morning.
Maren Turner was credited with the winning goal off a penalty kick to help the Saints nab the gold medal while the Owls were left with silver.
“[The] biggest challenges against the Saints were they were defensively strong, we really had a hard time getting off good shots,” Tolen recalled.
“We dug hard, and gave up no easy shots. Naomi [Carradice] was able to stop all of the shots that were able to get through,” she lauded.
“The only goal they scored was a great penalty kick to the back right-hand corner of the net.
“The only way she could have gotten there is if she guessed and got lucky,” she reasoned.
“My assistant coach, Rochelle Douglas, and I are super proud of the way the girls worked during the final game.”
The Saints now will host the best-of-three NWOSSAA championships tomorrow and Friday against the Marathon Falcons while Rainy River is left to look forward to the future.
Tolen noted that Owls had a good year and that she was pleased with how competitive her squad was this season.
“They are a hardworking, competitive, bunch of girls and we finished strong,” she enthused.
“There was steady improvement through out the season, with them peaking at playoffs.”
The Owls will be losing 10 players to graduation but Tolen feels confident that the squad will be strong next season based on its core of current Grade 10 players.
“I have a strong group of Grade 10s that will be the backbone of our team next year and one senior, Grace Kooistra,” she noted.
“I expect it will be a year of learning but they are also very strong athletes and there is going to be a big shake up of the league, so who knows,” she added.
As for the Owl boys’ squad, they reached a similar fate in their playoff games last week in Kenora.
After finishing the regular season in third place with a 2-3-1 record, they opened the playoffs last Thursday afternoon with a semi-final clash against the second-place Red Lake Rams.
Jack Wood netted the game-tying goal for the Owls in that one to send it into overtime.
After overtime solved nothing, penalty kicks were needed to determine a winner.
Nick Vogan, Reese Chorney, and Skyler Friesen scored in the penalty kick shootout while Caleb Jack was solid between the pipes to help the Owls nab a 2-1 decision and advance to face the top-ranked Saints the following afternoon–who dispatched the fourth-place Warriors 2-1 in their semi-final showdown.
Rainy River faced a much stiffer test against the powerhouse Saints and suffered a 4-0 loss to settle for silver.
The Saints were to travel to Marathon for the best-of-three NWOSSAA championships against the Falcons while the Owls now have their sights set on the future.
“During the two playoff games the boys played hard, communicated well, executed their passes and never gave up,” lauded Owls’ coach Martin Williams.
“I am proud of the team,” he enthused.