When Abbie Simms slotted a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net in the fifth-round of penalty kicks against Victoria’s perennial powerhouse Oak Bay Breakers, and Campbell River’s Carihi Tyees began their celebration, its longtime coach could only shake his head.
“We’ve gone to penalty kicks seven times this season,” began Tyees’ head coach John Jepson. “I said to the girls earlier in the season that it would not surprise me if we ended up going against Oak Bay in a winner-take-all. I knew we would have to play a defensive game for that to happen. It was a calculated prediction.”
In a sudden-elimination contest for a direct berth to next week’s B.C. girls Triple A championships (May 31-June 2, Burnaby Lake Sports Complex), the tiny Tyees held the favoured Breakers to a 0-0 regulation draw, then in the heart-stopping manner in which they have become so accustomed to playing in this season, they did the deed.
And to boot, they did it on Oak Bay’s own home turf.
Carihi was later overwhelmed 4-0 by Victoria’s Reynolds Roadrunners in the Vancouver Island championship final, yet their win over the Breakers has not only put them into the provincial field as a No. 3 seed in their pool, but as a true wildcard within the grand scheme of the 16-team field.
Jepson, who has coached the Tyees for over two decades, is one of those who has taken the time and care to establish tradition within a girls high school soccer program.
So much so that as game time approached against Oak Bay, he could clearly see the emotional investment that his girls were carrying heading into their biggest match of the campaign.
“At the start of the game, with the Grade 12 girls, they were crying,” admitted Jepson, who last season took the team on tour in Hawaii and for the past 21 years has hosted an invitational tournament at the school. “It was all on the line here. So yes, tears before and after the game. But our program is like family and it’s been an awesome thing to see.”
And all of this has come despite the fact that the Tyees are one of those bubble schools, each season never sure what tier classification their student population will place them in.
“We’re a tiny Triple A school or a big Double A school, we’re always bouncing,” said Jepson. “This year, we were six over.”
It can be hard enough to find a definitive season-to-season list of provincial girls high school champions on the internet, but Tyees’ girls soccer history?
It’s all documented on its own website, and thus Jepson can tell you that Carihi will be making its 11th trip to provincials in the past 21 years, and it’s eighth as a Triple A team.
It has finished as high as seventh at Triple A and as high as second at Double A
Carihi has also hosted six provincial tournaments over that span.
It’s certainly no easy task to handicap this coming week’s tournament whose three-day run which begins Wednesday and ends Friday.
Reynolds, Surrey’s Panorama Ridge Thunder and North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals are certainly three teams to watch.
But how about those Tyees?
Their gritty nature certainly recommends them as a team to watch.
“We’re super excited for next week,” says Jepson, who got penalty-kick strikes from Macayla Gray, Charlie Borrie and Simms, the latter coming off a broken foot, as well a s clutch goal-keeping from Hayley Hunter, to beat Oak Bay.
“But you forget where you finish unless you win. For us, it’s the wonderful stories of what happens during a season when everyone buys in.”
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