BURNABY — The old saying says that you never underestimate the heart of a champion.
North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints seemed to be holding that sentiment close to their hearts as they took to the turf at Burnaby Lake on Tuesday afternoon in the semifinals of the B.C. senior boys Double A soccer championships.
A berth in Wednesday’s championship final (11:15 a.m.) against East Vancouver’s Notre Dame Jugglers was just one win away, yet to get there they would have to first go through the defending provincial champion Langley Traditional Titans.
“Our boys played like it was their last game today,” said proud STA head coach Loui Salituro after the Fighting Saints made a 16th minute strike stand the rest of the way in a 1-0 win over the Titans which sends them to their first B.C. final since 2013’s dramatic penalty-kick title victory over Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Huskies.
“We knew we were facing a strong opponent who also happen to be the defending provincial champs, so the mentality from the start was leave was to leave everything on the field, and they did just that,” added Salituro, who got clean-sheet keeping from senior goalie Michael O’Flynn.
Grade 11 Henry Cromack, one half of the team’s strike force duo which also includes senior Lucas Borejszo, nodded home the winner, re-directing the ball off a set piece from a free kick.
Earlier in the day, Notre Dame stormed the gates in its semifinal, claiming a 2-0 shutout win over Mill Bay’s Brentwood College.
All four semifinalists awoke Tuesday to the prospect of needing to salvage at least a point in its respective group stages finales in order to advance to the semifinals.
Brentwood College beat Caledonia of Terrace 3-1, Langley Fundamental beat Sa-Hali of Kamloops 2-0, and Notre Dame blanked Victoria’s St. Michaels University School 3-0.
St. Thomas Aquinas, off a second-minute goal from Grade 11 Ethan Dong, hung on for a 1-1 draw against Campbell River’s Carihi Tyees, just enough for it to win its group.
At 10:45 a.m., Brentwood College meets Langley Fundamental for third place, South Kamloops meets Windsor for fifth place, and Alpha meets Carihi for seventh.
The day opens at 9 a.m. Hugh McRoberts meets Sa-Hali for ninth, SMUS clashes with LV Rogers for 11th, Caledonia opposes McNair for 13th and College Heights meets Brooks for 15th.
The B.C. Triple A boys tournament begins its three-day run with two rounds of group stage play on Thursday, also at Burnaby Lake.
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