Mustangs off to an early start in the season

Hope Secondary's Mustang girls have made a beginning to what should be a remarkable season

Hope's Kaylee Ward and a Sardis player chase down a ball in an exhibition game on Tuesday last week. The Mustangs played well but lost 4-0.

Hope Secondary’s Mustang girls have made an early start in their soccer training, getting ready for what should be a remarkable season.

In late February, players travelled to 100 Mile House for a one-day indoor tournament against Williams Lake and 100 Mile teams. HSS players were split into two teams for games of 5-on-5.

Coach Jeremy Smith said the girls struggled to score, though they also made it hard for their opponents to get past them.

“Indoor soccer is usually high-scoring but after 50-minute games, we were only losing by scores of 5-1 or 4-2,” he said.

Last week, they traveled to Chilliwack twice, for exhibition games against Sardis and Chilliwack Senior Secondary.

Tuesday against Sardis, Smith said he was pleased with the effort in the girls’ 4-0 loss.

“We played well, working better as a team and learning to be more patient with the ball.

“Against Chilliwack Senior, we got splattered,” he said. “It was into double digits, I’m sure — but Amanda Lancaster scored on a free kick.”

The bigger school plays in a higher league than Hope but Smith said Sardis will be fielding a B team that will play exhibition games against the single-A schools in Hope Secondary’s league.

“We’ll have four home games and four away, starting in early April,” said Smith.

The big news is what’s happening on April 8 and 9, when the girls will be hosting their inaugural tournament.

Ten teams will be taking part, coming from as far away as Pemberton and Enderby.

This will be Hope’s first soccer tournament since the men’s Fletcher Challenge Canadians hosted one in the early 1990s. As many as three games will be running at the same time, so the C.E. Barry field will be used and two pitches will be set up sideways on the HSS field.

In other soccer news, the Valley Helicopters-sponsored Valley Choppers closed out their ninth season in the Chilliwack Men’s Soccer League with a spirited game against the league-leading Young Guns, the perennial favourite to win the regular season and playoff title.

HSS coach Smith played for the Young Guns a number of years ago but has been on the Choppers since 2012.

The Young Guns had a glorious record of 18 wins, two ties and a loss in 21 games, with nine shutouts and only 14 goals against. That contrasted with the Choppers’ two wins and three ties and a single shutout.

The thing is, the Choppers had their worst games early in the season. Since the end of November, they only had a 2-0 and 4-0 loss. All the rest were wins, ties or one-goal losses.

Could they keep it tight on Saturday night, against the Young Guns?

Playing on their favourite field, the artificial turf at Chilliwack Senior Secondary, the Choppers started with intensity.

League manager Justin Depodesta watched the game from the sidelines and said later, “You guys had a very good game. In the first 25 minutes, you dominated possession. I was very impressed with the ball movement.”

With keeper Kyle Kjemhus thwarting the early Young Guns challenges, captain Zane MacDonald gave the Choppers a 1-0 lead at about the 20-minute mark. Their opponents made it 1-1 soon after, though the Choppers had a handful of chances on a strong attack shortly before the break and were unlucky not to take the lead.

The Guns took advantage of two lapses in the early stages of the second half, making it 3-1 — but the Choppers got their tenacity back and Yvon McKay blasted a cross-goal shot to make it 3-2 in the late stages.

If the game ended in a tie, it would go directly to a shoot-out, which could go either way.

The Choppers threw themselves into the final minutes to get the tying goal but couldn’t quite pull it off.

On paper, it should have been the most lopsided game of the sudden-death playoffs. In fact, it was the most tightly-contested of all four games in the opening round.

The Choppers will be retaining a core of players for next season but will be looking for new recruits over the summer.

Yours truly will be stepping down as player-manager to focus more on reffing and the less-frantic pace of senior ball.

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