With cold winds blowing out of the east, it was lucky the Hope Secondary Mustangs had planned their Friday soccer tournament for the indoors.
“Yes, the field was frozen,” said coach Jeremy Smith. “It would have been pretty miserable.”
Lucky again: two teams travelling from the Pemberton area had reasonably clear roads all the way, despite Thursday night’s snowfall. Seabird Island School was the other team and they met Hope in the opening game at 11 a.m.
Seabird had edged out Hope in an indoor exhibition game a week earlier but the Mustangs started off with a 3-0 run before Seabird got on the board.
After a 6-3 lead at the half, Hope’s Damon Campbell scored his third in a row before Seabird caught up to tie it at 8, with only eight minutes to go. Brothers Eric and Jake Meijer helped each other score one more goal apiece for the home team, securing a 10-8 win for Mustangs net-minder Jamie Dearden.
Pemberton Secondary blanked Mount Currie’s Xit’olacw 9-0 in the next game, and it was clear they weren’t the same team that finished in the middle of the pack at the Mustangs’ 10-team outdoor tourney in early October – where Xit’olacw had finished third.
Pemberton coach Phil Read said four of his players had missed the earlier meet, due to commitments to their club teams in Squamish. Their skill and fitness were a thing to behold. Tony Liakakos, wearing the #21 jersey, could deftly run through a whole team before placing the ball in the net.
Hope got off to a 3-1 lead against Xit’olacw in Game 3 before Xit’olacw’s Carson Andrews unleashed a series of low hard shots that filled the net. The Meijers had some magic of their own, though, with Eric scoring a hat trick and Jake making a confident move in front of the net to find a shooting lane before putting the ball top-corner.
The visitors’ firepower was too much for the hosts but coach Smith said, “It could have been much closer. We only started with seven guys, as some were writing tests.”
After getting schooled in the first half against Pemberton, the win was recorded and the second half was played as a “friendly.” Coach Smith came on as an extra player for the Mustangs and Liakakos went in the net for Pemberton.
“Our guys weren’t playing badly,” said Smith. “They just had so much skill on the other team. I wanted to get out there and coach from the floor.”
Smith’s play on the back line helped settle Hope’s game and make the last half a lot more even – that and Liakakos wasn’t as amazing in net as he was on the floor. The Mustangs were able to pop a few past him.
The season is now over for the boys, though Smith will hold co-ed practices on Thursday evenings, into the new year. He had some post-season assessments to share.
“The guys are starting to say, ‘Hey! Pass the ball … don’t try to do it all yourself.’ They’re starting to recognize good times to make passes and they’re trusting their teammates.
“Jake Meijer has got it figured out, how to pass, then make a run to receive a return pass,” said Smith. “He and Eric were our best scorers. They have a non-verbal ability to know where the other one is, for set-ups.
“Mateo Andrews has always had good skills but this year he has really grown as a vocal player and a team player.
“And Ben Gladue has developed so well. He was a first-year player last year and he’s really learned to slow the game down and he knows what needs to be done.”
As referee for all six games on Friday, I must say I was impressed with the respect shown by all four teams. They kept the games clean and safe, mindful of the hard surfaces that had potential to cause injury.
Thanks also to Hope Secondary student Verena Brysch, who remotely controlled my camera from the bleachers via wifi on my cellphone, giving us photos from behind the net.