Paul Pedersen is already looking forward to next season when the McMath Wildcats are expected to be a force on the high school soccer pitch.
“We need to find a keeper, but attacking-wise there won’t be many teams better than us,” said the coach of the McMath girls AAA team that, with only a single Grade 12 player in captain Georgia Booker, competed well to finish seventh at last weekend’s provincial championships in Burnaby.
“I’m very proud of the girls, they battled hard,” said Pedersen. “We were a little flat on day one and it cost us. But we finished the year with 14 wins, three draws and two losses and had 73 goals for and only eight against. That is a pretty good year in my eyes. You always want to win provincials, but going into the season with so much turnover from last year, realistically it was a long shot.”
Next season, the Wildcats will lean heavily on a core of players who will then be seniors including Dakota Chan, Lauren Dickson, Kirsten Wilshire, Emilie Sherritt and Jalen Donaldson. Grade 9s Maddison Elcombe and Kayla Nimchuk both had huge impacts this season and will need to take another step in their soccer development next season “to help the squad jump into the medal round,” said Pedersen.
Fighting the jitters, the Wildcats played to a 1-1 draw versus Burnaby North Vikings in their opening match at the 2017 provincials before concluding day one in what Pedersen said was perhaps their toughest match of the season against Centennial Centaurs. Loaded with talented Grade 12s, the Centaurs posted a 1-0 victory.
McMath kicked off the second day by outscoring Clayton Heights 1-0. The winning goal came with 20 minutes to go on a through ball to Wilshire from Nimchuk. But the joy was short-lived as they lost 3-1 in a shootout to a physical Kelowna Owls side.
“We had a chance to win it in the last three minutes when (Lauren) Dickson hit a half volley into the top corner of the net, only to see the Kelowna keeper make a world- class, one-handed save and tip it around the post,” said Pedersen. “To be fair, I have never seen a high school keeper make a save of this quality.”
The result put McMath into the seventh-place game Friday against the North Shore champion Handsworth Royals. McMath possessed the ball much of the game and created multiple chances. With about 15 minutes to go, Chan made a solo run down the right flank beating three defenders to cut the ball back to Allison Fast waiting on the penalty spot. She finished it neatly with her left foot into the far corner. Though tired, the girls battled through to limit the Royals to shots from distance.