BURNABY — Surrey’s Panorama Ridge Thunder are the only undefeated team here at the B.C. girls high school soccer championships.
Yet ask them if it’s been an easy ride to Friday’s championship final and co-coach Derek Duke shrugs his shoulder and takes a deep breath.
“We haven’t had an easy game and I find this year, more than ever, the teams are very even,” Dukes explained after his Fraser Valley champions got an overtime goal from Ritti Lakhanpal to beat Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs 2-1 in the first of two semifinal matches staged Thursday at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
The Thunder will now face their arch-rivals, the defending B.C. champion Fleetwood Park Dragons, in Friday’s 11:30 a.m. final after Fleetwood Park got goals from Jenieva Musico and Sara Tortorra to beat Chilliwack’s Sardis Falcons 2-1 in the day’s second provincial semifinal.
Meghan Rose scored the only goal for Sardis,.
“We needed a quick start and we took it too them pretty good,” said Fleetwood coach Sunny Uppal. “And we finished our chances when we got them and that was important, because I thought in the second half that Sardis was the better team.”
A tough opposition is just what Panorama Ridge got from the Centaurs.
“Centennial was tremendous and after we played them at the Fraser Valleys, we knew they would be,” said Duke. “And they brought it.”
Kuljit Johal had opened the scoring midway through the first half for the Thunder, who will play for their first B.C. title since winning it all in 2012.
In the latter stages of the second half, after assuming control of the play for long stretches, Centennial senior Catrina Olstrom knotted the score when she broke free inside the 18-yard area.
However Lakhanpal’s lofting 35-yard shot handcuffed the Centaurs and found its way in the back of the next early in the 15-minute overtime session.
“I am proud of how hard our girls worked, I adore them,” said Centennial head coach Larry Moro, who fought back tears after his team’s bid to play in the program’s first final in 16 years fell achingly short. “We just kept coming.”
Centennial was playing in its first Final 4 since 2006.
Now, it’s time for the all-Surrey derby, and there is plenty of history here, with Fleetwood Park beating the Thunder in both the 2014 and 2015 provincial semifinals.
They played in back-to-back finals in 2000 and 2001, winning gold first and then silver. And, of course, they opened their respective seasons against each other in late March by meeting in the final of the inaugural UBC Thunderbirds’ blue-and-giold invitational. In that contest, Fleetwood Park took a 1-0 decision.
“In that tournament both teams were missing players and it was an even game,” said Uppal, “but overall it was good soccer so this is a nice and fitting end to the season for both teams. They are just as passionate about the game as we are and it will come down to who gets the right bounces.”
In a winner-take-all for a berth to the semifinals, Sardis got a pair of goals from Meghan Rose to blank North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals 2-0 and win Pool B.
Fleetwood Park completed a miraculous climb to the semifinals after playing to a pair of Pool A draws on Wednesday, beating Kitsilano 3-1 to edge out the Blue Demons and win their section.
Centennial got to its first Final Four since 2006 with a 5-0 win over Burnaby North in its final Pool D game.
Panorama Ridge was the most dominant team in the 16-team field, emerging from Pool C with a 3-0-0 record after its 2-0 win over Kelowna.
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