Panorama Ridge's Alanna Sydenham (left) and Niki Virk of Panorama Ridge clash in an all-Surrey battle for B.C. girls high school soccer supremacy on Friday in Burnaby. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)
Feature High School Girls Soccer

Instant Classic: Panorama tops Fleetwood on kicks to win 2017 BC girls AAA soccer title

BURNABY — Kuljit Johal will find some time over the next few days to get her injured knee checked out by doctors. 

“But right now I can’t even feel it I am so happy,” the Panorama Ridge Thunder senior explained Friday after a match full of ups and downs, one which mirrored her own emotional state, ended with a dramatic penalty-kicks victory over its crosstown rivals, the Fleetwood Park Dragons in the B.C. Girls Triple A high school soccer championship final, played before a capacity crowd at Burnaby Lakes.

Carried off the field by her teammates early in the second half after hurting her left knee, just moments after her free kick sent teammate Tanveer Pannu into the box for the game’s first goal, Johal was forced to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines.

And what she saw was an emotional see-saw affair, filled with twists and turns, and an eventual game-tying goal in the 60th minute of the 70-minute regulation.

Tanveer Pannu (front) of Panorama Ridge and Niki Virk of Fleetwood Park were a pair of standouts in the BC AAA final played Friday. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

Ashley Burgess of the Dragons, a scoring threat seemingly every time she touched the ball, had her cross headed home in front of the net by teammate Sara Tortorra.

Panorama’s Shanya Dhindsa and Alanna Sydenham, and the Dragons’ Burgess each enjoyed potential game-winning scoring opportunities, but the game remained tied through regulation and a 15-minute overtime.

Panorama Ridge won the game after a miss by Fleetwood Park in the opening kick of the fourth round of penalty kicks.

Pannu, Isha Jhally and tourney MVP Ritti Lakanpal scored on each of the Thunder’s first three kicks. Burgess scored Fleetwood’s only goal of the penalty kick session.

Panorama Ridge players celebrate the school’s first BC girls soccer title since 2012. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

“I am proud of the girls because they played like a group of players who care for each other,” said Thunder co-coach Darrell Fast, who along with Derek Duke, guided Panorama Ridge to its first provincial girls soccer title since its maiden triumph back in 2012.

“We have so much respect for Fleetwood Park,” he continued of the powerhouse program which was playing in its fourth straight final and coming off B.C. titles last season and in 2014. “We just tried to stay with them today, to match their work ethic.”

And yet within the details were all kinds of individual stories of triumph, like Johal’s, who back in March was a key member of the Thunder senior girls basketball team which bowed out to eventual champ Lord Tweedsmuir in the Final Four at the B.C. Triple A basketball championships staged just around the corner at the Langley Events Centre.

“This feels like redemption,” said Johal, who on Thursday, scored her team’s lone regulation goal off a free kick in a 2-1 semi-final win over Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs. “This is the best way to end it off, wearing a PR jersey and getting a win. I told the girls they could do this without me. I was crying because I was in pain, but I was also crying because I wanted to be out there with them so much.”

Tears of joy on one side, tears of agony on the other.

Fleetwood Park felt the emotion that comes with losing a BC title on penalty kicks. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

“I told the girls that none of this was their fault,” said Dragons’ head coach Sunny Uppal. “When you go to a shoot-out, it’s a coin-flip. We came in here as the No. 13 (seed) and I am proud of how we played to get here.”

Unflappble in nature, emerging with a berth in the semifinals despite tying their first two games, the Dragons had opened the season with a win over Panorama Ridge in the final of the inaugural UBC Blue-and-Gold Invitational. Panorama Ridge, however, didn’t lose a game the rest of the way, including a Fraser Valley championship and five straight wins at the provincial tournament.

On Friday, busloads of fans from both schools jammed the bleachers, and fans gathered two-to-three deep around the majority of the park’s circumference.

It was a special ending to the B.C. girls high school soccer season.

Fleetwood Park coach Sunny Uppal is a true proponent of BC high school soccer. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

“You don’t get this in club soccer, unfortunately,” said Uppal, “only in high school. I am a big believer in high school soccer, the (club) coaches need to realize that this is a big deal to the girls, to represent their school and community.

“They say that high school soccer isn’t that great, but those who do need to come here, and appreciate all of this.”

Centennial defeated Sardis to finish third, led by the play of Catrina Olstrom, the Golden Boot award winner, who led all scorers with six strikes over five games.

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