SURREY — Raegan Mackenzie’s well-placed blast off an indirect free kick 25 minutes in wound up holding as the winner, lifting defending B.C. AAA champion Centennial Centaurs to a 2-1 win over Surrey’s Panorama Ridge Thunder in Fraser Valley’s top-tiered title game Thursday afternoon at Cloverdale Athletic Park.
“I thought that as a team, we defended well,” summed Centaurs’ co-coach Kevin Comeau whose team remained undefeated on the season at 15-0-2 and will likely earn the No. 1 overall seed when the provincial bracket for the May 29-31 event is unveiled early next week.
In the North Shore-Burnaby-New Westminster zone this week, both the Handsworth Royals and Argyle Pipers booked their provincial tourney berths.
Argyle punched its ticket with a 7-1 win over New Westminster on Monday, and Handsworth followed suit with a 2-0 win over New Westminster on Thursday.
Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats defeated Vancouver’s Kitsilano Blue Demons 4-3 in the Vancouver-Richmond title match Thursday on Lulu Island, but both teams had already qualified for the provincial draw.
Kelowna and North Peace have also locked up berths.
On Vancouver Island, Nanaimo District beat Oak Bay 5-2 in the title tilt, but both teams will represent at the provincials. Claremont will face Reynolds in a sudden-elimination match Tuesday for the B.C. tourney’s 16th-and-final berth, a spot created when automatic qualifier Mt. Baker of Cranbrook informed the tournament committee that it would not be taking part this season.
Back in the Fraser Valley, which sends sevens teams to the Big Dance for the final time in advance of province-wide restructuring, Centennial went into play knowing it was facing one of the most well-coached and disciplined programs in the B.C.
“Both (co-coach) Larry (Moro) and I both stressed to the team that it was critical to maintain possession and not give up the cheap turnover,” continued Comeau. “We had to be responsible.”
Mackenzie, the stalwart Grade 11 entrusted with executing off the team’s set pieces expertly drifted the ball high and over both the wall and the keeper’s head for a 1-0 lead that held into the break.
In the 65th minute of the 80-minute regulation time contest, Mackenzie lofted a corner-kick into the box and to the far post where Grade 10 outside midfielder Avery Tulloch rose up and nodded home some needed insurance to ultimately make the 2-0 win complete.
“We felt like we were able to control most of the second half,” continued Comeau, who admitted Panorama Ridge was still able to put itself into position for potentially game-changing opportunities.
“They did have some counter chances down the stretch,” he said, “but they didn’t create any great opportunities on net.”
Nonetheless, for a Centaurs’ program playing some of the best soccer it has over its three-season resurgence, it was hard to think of a program more dangerous than the Thunder, a team they had somehow not faced in almost two full seasons.
History shows that Centennial and Panorama Ridge last faced each other in a senior girls soccer match back on June 1, 2017.
The occasion that day was the B.C. AAA semifinals, and it was Ritti Lakhanpal’s overtime goal which carried the Thunder to a 2-1 win, setting the stage for The Thunder’s eventual title-game penalty kicks win over Fleetwood Park the next day.
The Centaurs, of course, defeated Fleetwood Park in last season’s B.C. title match for the school’s first provincial crown in 19 years.
Thursday’s showcase finale capped a busy day of Fraser Valley.
Fleetwood Park, already in as tourney hosts, were nonetheless as effective as ever, topping South Delta 3-0 in the third-fourth place game.
In the battle for fifth and sixth, Chilliwack’s Sardis Falcons topped Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils on PKs after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw through overtime.
And in the sudden-elimination game for the zone’s seventh-and-final B.C. berth, PoCo’s Riverside Rapids rallied to defeat Surrey’s Sullivan Heights Stars 2-1 in overtime.
In the Double A Fraser Valley final, PoCo’s Archbishop Carney defeated Pitt Meadows 2-0, while Holy Cross topped Abby’s MEI Eagles 7-0 in the third-fourth game.
Surrey’s Fraser Heights Firehawks repeated as Fraser Valley junior champions with a 2-1 win over Centennial.
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