Hope soccer fans were treated to two great first-half efforts by the Hope Secondary Mustang boys’ senior team, last Thursday and this Tuesday. In fact, in both home games, the outcome was still up in the air until the final 10 or 15 minutes.
Against Abbotsford’s MEI last Thursday, Mustang keeper Nik Gauthier let an early shot get past him — then shut the door with outstanding saves, aided by speedy and timely defensive support from Kyle Feltren, Jeremiah Steberl, Jacob Chisholm and Dustin Wutzke.
The midfield also helped in core defence and feeding the offence.
“Our captain, Blake Deschenes, is a great leader,” said community coach Andrew Tarrant. “He and Marcus Aubin have been solid in central midfield, which has often been lacking in the teams I’ve coached before.”
Aubin injured his knee in the second half and his absence was notable in the final minutes and in Tuesday’s game.
With 10 minutes to go in the first half, Owen Tunnicliffe set up Quentin Jones who took a quick, low shot with his left foot from high in the box, putting it just inside the post. HSS held off the relentless MEI attacks to carry a 1-1 score into half time.
The quick-footed visitors were keen on sending their strikers in for breakaways, though more than 10 were called back for being offside. Gauthier kept up his aggressive challenges to clean up any chances that made it through. Off-target shots and a few posts kept the score tied until MEI notched the go-ahead goal with 20 minutes to go. They went on to score four more in the closing nine minutes.
Aldergrove Secondary brought a talented squad to town on Tuesday, with lots of speed and firepower. They scored three minutes into the game, then Gauthier and crew clamped down and kept the ball out of the Hope net for the rest of the half.
At the other end, Quentin Jones and Austin Cadano used their speed to pressure the Aldergrove keeper, who hurried his clearing kick and bounced it off Jones to Cadano, who had an easy tap-in.
Once again, it was 1-1 at half time.
Aldergrove made good on a penalty kick, five minutes into the second half and scored three more in the final 15 minutes — one of them on another PK, that Gauthier almost got his hands on.
The final play of the game may have given a glimpse of the talent that is developing in the grade 8s. Tunnicliffe used his speed to get around a defender and put a strong pass across the box to fellow grade 8 teammate Vincent Pellegrino, who couldn’t quite find the target.
A Mustangs’ win would have seen Aldergrove come back for a playoff game next week but the visitors’ victory puts Hope on the bus for an away game.
Due to the protracted school labour dispute, Tarrant missed three weeks of practice with his team.
“The season is normally too short — and this season it’s even shorter,” he said. “I’d love to have a five-month season or more, rather than just one month, so that we have time to build on the early lessons.
“We could do with a few more grade 10,11 and 12s, especially some of the ones that have played with us before — but I am grateful for the grade 8s and 9s. They bring a great spirit of enthusiasm to the team, which makes up for their lack of size.”
Hope Minor Soccer president Bruce Becker said he felt the school closures had an effect on registrations for his group, which were at historic lows this fall.
“We have a small but enthusiastic and dedicated group,” said Becker, principal of Silver Creek Elementary. “The numbers are the lowest they have been since I have been running the program, probably due to the hockey season and the teachers’ strike. The schools are a great way to get information out and to encourage participation.
The 91 players are distributed in four groups.
• Grades K/1: 21 players
• 2/3/4: 31
• 5/6/7: 19
• 8-11: 21
“I believe 12 of the players play high school soccer as well,” added Becker.
“We started on September 13 and end on November 15. On the last day, we play our annual parents versus kids game. This year, the parents are hoping for their first-ever win!
“The spring season registration will be on Thursday, March 19 at Silver Creek between 6-8pm, with the first games on April 11th. The cost is $40, with special family rates.”