Five graduating players didn’t need to be reminded what the McMath Wildcats had accomplished on a sun-baked field at Cloverdale Athletic Park last Friday.
Morgan Flynn, Samantha Trueman, Olivia Tweedlie, Morgan Game and Bella Lawson helped the Wildcats capture bronze at the B.C. AAA Girls Soccer Championships after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Panorama Ridge.
It was the Steveston school’s first medal at the tournament in 11 years and it came after a stretch of heartbreak appearances that saw the Wildcats eliminated from podium contention on penalty kicks each time. Now the Grade 12s walk away from their high school careers with their first-ever medal.
“Some of us started in our Grade 9 year so we have been here for a while,” smiled Flynn who will be continuing her career at University of Idaho in September. “A lot of us come from different club teams and different age divisions too. For us to come together and do this is amazing.”
Two of the Grade 12s even had to pass up on competing at the B.C. Track and Field Championships in Kelowna to take one last run at soccer glory. It proved to be well worth it.
“It something about being on a team and it’s just a lot better to win as a team,” said Trueman.
With the 16-team tournament offering just four berths to the championship round, the Wildcats avoided penalty kicks this time by capturing their group with three straight victories over Claremont (2-0), South Delta (1-0) and Handsworth (2-0). That set the stage for Thursday afternoon’s semi-final encounter with defending champion Centennial.
McMath trailed 2-0 when Madi Elcomb found the top corner to put her team on the board. The Centaurs re-stored the two-goal lead but Flynn put the Wildcats back within striking distance. The Coquitlam school added an insurance goal and went on to repeat as B.C. champions with a win over Fleetwood Park.
The bronze game saw McMath control much of the play in the opening minutes, result in a goal from Teagan Ng. That proved to be the game winner despite some late pressure from Panorama that forced goalkeeper Makayla Kusch to make a terrific stop.
Both Ng and Kusch are in Grade 9 and members of the Coastal Cup champion U15 Richmond Strikers. Such is the uniqueness of high school soccer that brings various age and competitive levels together. The Wildcats roster featured players from Grades 8 to 12.
“It’s a chemistry. When I was picking the team it was ‘what are we looking for?’ We were looking for certain things in particular positions and hoping that magic formula would result in a top four finish. It seemed to have worked,” smiled head coach Mandhir Punia who also happens to guide the Strikers.
“The big thing for me was always giving seniors an outlet to leave on a high and they did that today.”
The Wildcats roster also features: Sarah Dawson, Tamar Gordon, Lexy Shury, Kennedy Walrund, Jaya Punia, Alyssa Bhandyal, Abby Young and Kayla Nimchuk.
McMath was the only non-Fraser Valley school to finish in the top eight. The new Fraser South Zone is shaping up to be very competitive next season with four of the top five finishers from this year’s tournament.