It isn't always the quantity of chances you get but what you do with them that counts. And unfortunately for R.D. Parker Collegiate's girls' soccer team, the Hapnot Collegiate Institute Kopper Kweens from Flin Flon made the most of their opportunity – and only shot on goal in the second half of the Zone 11 girls' soccer final – putting home the winner with the only goal of the game about 10 minutes before the conclusion of the contest for the right to represent the north at rural soccer provincials later this month.
“They had one shot on net in the second half and they scored,” said head coach Stan Wong immediately after the game. One shot on net. What do you do?”
The Trojans carried play for much of the game, dominating possession and maintaining control in the Kopper Kweens end for long stretches, including most of the final five minutes of the opening half, but were unable to convert any of their chances, which included a scramble for a loose ball in Hapnot's penalty area just before halftime, a ball that eluded the Hapnot goaltender only to bounce of the post as RDPC battled to get the equalizer and a final attempt on net just seconds before the referee sounded the final whistle.
Still, many of their offensive attempts were foiled by Hapnot's team defence, which bent but didn't break.
“I have to give compliments to our opposition because they played well, “ said Wong, noting that it was tough to get a clean shot on net as Hapnot's players attacked the ball carrier. “They swarmed our players every time. They always had one person there and everybody else supported right away to go after our players.”
Hapnot's boys' team played a similar style, though they found themselves trailing almost as soon as the game had begun, giving up an own goal off the leg of a defender in only the second minute of play, after RDPC earned an early corner kick and kept possession in the Kopper King's zone to emerge with a 1-0 lead. Hapnot battled back however, equalizing the score less than 10 minutes later and adding two more in the first half en route to a 4-2 win.
“They long ball you, long ball and long throw,” said boys' team head coach Nuno Pereira. “They've got a lot of guys who are 6'3”, 6'4” so that's the game plan, right? Our midfielders and forwards, we have so much skill with the ball, carrying the ball, we can blow by guys but when they have the ball they try to cancel it out so they just boot it over everybody and try to hope they get a head on it.”
The Kopper Kings went ahead late in the first half in the same way they tied the game up, striking a home a loose ball from a scramble in front of the Trojans' net, then doubled their advantage with the first half almost over when a long free kick bounced over RDPC's goaltender who was battling the sun and tried to punch the shot away but couldn't knock it clear of the net.
The Trojans got within one in the first 10 minutes of the second half, on a shot off the Hapnot keeper's hand and into the top of the net, but hopes of a last-minute comeback were dashed when the Kopper Kings got to a ball that landed in no-man's land in front of RDPC's goalie to re-establish a two-goal lead.
Both coaches praised the effort of their teams throughout the tournament.
“I was ecstatic with the way my guys played,” said Pereira, noting that the Trojans played like “gentlemen” despite some verbal and physical abuse at the hands of their opponents.
“They played like they were going to take it all,” said Wong of his squad. “Somehow this last game the ball didn't bounce our way.”
The girls' coach also thanked Miss Milligan and Mr. Valante for their help as well as the parents who helped out at the concession and his assistant coach Janaye Tucker-Titanich.
“We couldn't have done [the tournament] without them,” he said. “We'd like to wish Flin Flon all the best at provincials.”
Pereira said his team did everything he asked of them, despite the fact that he can be a hard taskmaster.
“I'm not easy to please,” he said. “I'm a hard coach. I tear into them when it's needed. They responded well. These guys, they busted their butts. They played great. They gave it their all.”
Both of RDPC's soccer teams won both of their round-robin games, then won their semifinal matches to qualify for a shot at the zone title, the boys knocking out Cross Lake to make the final and the girls defeating Moose Lake.