Impact strikes gold
U16 Tier III boys win provincial soccer title
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 01, 2012 06:00 am
Travelling down to Calgary for provincials was pure gold for the St. Albert Impact U16 Tier III boys.
The Impact team outscored its opponents 28-8 en route to capturing the Alberta Soccer Association championship recently at Foothills Athletic Park.
“We went to provincials just hoping to do well. We knew there would be some really strong teams, especially from the Calgary leagues,” said head coach Andy McCartney.
“We started the season just hoping to medal in the EMSA division B league, and after our seeding rounds and league play we ended up winning gold. That in itself was a fantastic boost to the boys. For some of them it may have been their last chance to win a medal, as they were going to be too old for U16 after this season and there was not a U18 Impact team for them to play on.”
The Impact players are Austin Lazarenko, Braydon Lamash, Elijah Palkun, Sean Battiston, Corey Battiston, Daniel McCartney, David Shaw, Keaton Bell-Landon, Nolan Isbister, Chase Karch, Alec McLennan, Cole Richards, Cole Verbeek, Athan Pananos, Brennan Gorman, Ben MacPherson, Conor O’Kell and Trevor Rosaasen.
Kevin Lazarenko was the assistant coach, Sandie Gare the team manager and Roland Verbeek the equipment manager.
The roster was comprised primarily of players born in 1997, with two 1998 boys playing up a year and a strong group of 1996 players.
“As I presented the medals to the boys and shook their hands, I had a lump in my throat. I knew for some this season was the best they ever had, and it may have been their last,” McCartney said. “Kevin and I were both immensely proud of those boys and how they never gave up. They played as a team and the decisive factor, we believe, was our superior fitness. We had taken extra conditioning sessions with Simon Vickers from Servus Place, who has worked wonders on our team over the last two years.”
The tournament opener was the 14-2 blowout against Villains Storm.
“I had no expectations of success as we left for Calgary, as we found out we were grouped with the CMSA league’s top finishers,” McCartney said. “But as we arrived to play at 8 a.m. we knew our opponents had lost the previous evening [3-1 to the Canmore Avalanche], so we knew we had to win.”
The Villains paid the price for showing up with only 10 players. Lamash struck five times, Rosaasen had three goals and Karch potted a pair. Sean Battiston, Lazarenko, MacPherson and Verbeek added singles in the physical affair.
The next game was against Canmore, who had a player suspended in the win against the Villains. Lamash scored two goals and Karch and O’Kell one each in the 4-1 decision.
“It was a very even game, but we felt our fitness proved decisive as we scored two late goals to secure the win,” McCartney said.
In the semifinal the Impact finished strong to post a 5-2 victory over Airdrie FC. Rosaasen’s hat-trick and Lamash’s two goals did the damage offensively.
“It turned out to be another physical contest, as all our opponents had some very big players who used their size well,” McCartney said. “The teams were well matched again in skill level, but all our opponents found it difficult to contain our forwards, and in particular Braydon Lamash, who ended up with 11 goals in the tournament.”
The final against Coaldale Thunder on a hot afternoon was decided in extra time. Rosaasen and Sean Battiston scored in quick succession in the first of two 15-minute periods.
“We still had to play the second half in what seemed like the longest 15 minutes of my life, but we held on to finish as 5-3 winners,” McCartney said. “It turned out to be one of the most exciting games I have watched.”
The Impact led 2-0 in the opening 30 minutes on goals by Lamash, but Coaldale fought back with three in a row. In the last minute of play, Karch tied it at three apiece.
“I could see the rigours of the successive games were taking their toll on our boys. We had minor injuries from our previous games and fatigue was a factor,” McCartney said. “Our boys didn’t give up their work rate and kept the pressure on a tiring opposition and were rewarded with a goal, just seconds before the final whistle.”
A demoralized Coaldale squad never recovered from giving up the late equalizer.
“I said to our team to go all out and attack them hard and believe one goal could win it for us and they did just that,” McCartney said.