Force captures soccer crown
Division one playoff cup final in St. Albert Women's Soccer League
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
SA Force celebrated their second playoff cup in two years by winning their first division one crown in the St. Albert Women’s Soccer League.
Last year’s division two champions pulled off a stunning 3-2 upset of the first-place Mavericks 09 in Sunday’s division one final at Forest Park field.
“Coming from div two all we really wanted to do is make this league a little more competitive and give these teams a good game. We didn't necessarily come in with the expectations of we were going to win it so it’s a real good feeling,” said striker Angie Mason.
The Force finished 13-4-1 overall after going 16-0-1 last year as the division two pennant winners and playoff champions.
“All year long and we were building, building, building up to this and our coach (Dave Bilodeau) kept telling us even when we were down to just keep going because the final is the game that matters. It clearly it paid off so we’re really happy,” said centre-midfielder M.J. Appleby.
Her goal off a corner kick by Mason in the 80th minute cracked open a 2-2 tie against the defending champions.
“I thought it was coming at my head but it went off my knee,” Appleby said of the redirection play that slotted the ball into the short side of the cage. “Anything at the net was good today. A goal is a goal so I’m really happy, thrilled actually.”
Six minutes before Appleby’s game winner, an offside call nullified a spectacular scoring play by the Mavericks. A well-struck free kick by Allyson Fong near the touchline on the Force side of midfield was headed by Meghan Tauber across the goalmouth to Suzanne Schulz to finish off.
“I dove and headed it in and unfortunately it was called offside. It was heartbreaking,” said Schulz, the Mavericks’ top gun in league play with 16 goals for second spot in the Golden Boot scoring race. “Honestly if it had gone in we would’ve just carried the game away but any time a goal like that gets called back it just changes the mood of the game. We thought we were ahead and unfortunately it didn’t go that way.”
The Mavericks drew first blood in the 12th minute on Mel Johannesen’s goal and Mason replied in the 29th minute.
The Mavericks regained the lead in the 40th minute, when Chelsey Marques tucked a free kick under the crossbar that Force goalkeeper Michelle Dicaire had no chance of stopping.
“In the first half they got a quicker start than us, but our coaches told us to weather the storm at the beginning because we knew they were going to come hard at us,” Mason said. “After that we kind of took control as the game went on and stuck to our game plan.”
Four minutes into the second half Jill Bolkowy, the Force captain and outside midfielder, lobbed a harmless-looking ball towards the Mavericks’ net that took an opportunistic bounce into the back of the cage for the equalizer.
Both teams traded quality chances to break the tie before Appleby did the honour. Johannesen, Marques and Schulz took turns for the Mavericks, while the Force had several corner kicks to convert into goals.
“We’ve always done well against this team in the second half all year long to make it close and then we just came short,” Appleby said of the 1-0 and 4-2 losses to the Mavericks in league play. “At halftime we really thought we could do it and then when Jill tied it up it just gave us that little bit more of a boost that we could do it.”
With three starters not dressed the Mavericks ran out of steam against a younger and faster Force line-up.
“We missed some opportunities that we should've gotten but they definitely played a good game and gave us a good fight and unfortunately for us they came out on top,” said Schulz, 32.
The Mavericks finished 15-2 in league play and both losses were against the Force, including a 3-2 decision Aug. 13.
“They were a great team all year long. They’re hard to play against,” said Appleby, 20, who drove home from Lethbridge College to play in the big game.
The Mavericks’ overall record is 16-3-2 as the fourth-place finishers at Tier III provincials. Last year they were a perfect 16-0 in league and playoffs combined, and the team’s only loss in 20 matches was at Tier IV provincials as bronze medallists.
“It’s tough to lose the last game. Obviously we would've liked to come away with it but ultimately we did come on top in the league (for the division one pennant at 14-1),” said Schulz, last year’s Golden Boot champion with 17 goals. “It would’ve been nice icing on the cake to win this game but it gives us a challenge for next year. They know we’re after them now.”
In the semifinals the third-place Force showed they were the real deal to knock off the second-place Morinville Ladies 4-2 in overtime. Matana Skoye and Stephanie Bazzarelli scored in regulation, Deniz Demir connected in the first 15-minute extra period and Mason struck in the second 15-minute frame.
“That one was a nail bitter. It was really back and forth. We had a lot of good chances but their goalie played really well and then we kind of took control in overtime,” said Mason of the playoff tilt with Morinville (11-4-1), last year’s playoff cup finalist and 2011 pennant winners.
Mason, 19, was this year’s runaway leader for the Golden Boot Award with an eye-popping 33 goals.
“It was really all about the assists,” she stressed. “I’ve been a forward for this team for two years now and last year we really kind of clicked with the mids sending me the balls that I want. All the mids kind of know what ball I want now and we work together really good.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the Force team picture.