BURNABY — One full cycle, in grade school years, can be long enough to take your breath away, and thus 12 full seasons after he last pulled the trick, Dennis Pavan’s response to victory tinged with emotion.
“It’s so fantastic,” the head coach of East Vancouver’s Notre Dame Jugglers senior boys soccer team explained Wednesday afternoon in the aftermath of a 2-0 win over North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints in the championship final of the B.C. Double-A tournament at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
(Full tournament placing-game scores below)
“I had just transferred over to Notre Dame back in 2007, and that year we won it all,” continued Pavan, whose current crop of seniors were mere first-graders that season. “Now, here we are again.”
Ten minutes in, Grade 11 Luca Martinelli rocketed home a rebound in the penalty area to score what proved to be the winner, while senior Adamo Scaccia added late second-half insurance, both goals coming against the brilliant netminding of St. Thomas Aquinas senior Michael O’Flynn, who was later named the tournament’s top goalie.
“The first goal was massive because they have an outstanding keeper,” said Pavan, whose team was led by its tournament MVP Brandon Torresan. “He was a little injured but he was still outstanding. So we felt that if we could get the first goal, stop their counter-attack and hold our shape the rest of the way that we would be OK.”
The two teams got to know each other in the sense of a true respectful rivalry this season as new zone geography blurred the lines built through years of traditional derbies.
The Fighting Saints took down the Jugglers 4-0 at the B.C. Catholic Schools Championship earlier this season, and the Jugglers rallied at the recent Sea-to-Sky zone title match at Empire Stadium with a 2-1 win.
That’s why the atmosphere heading into Wednesday’s rubber match seemed perched on tenterhooks.
Martinelli’s early goal signalled an onslaught of Notre Dame pressure, and the Jugglers dominated the entire first half.
“They really put us on our heels right off the bat and we weren’t expecting that,” admitted Fernando Grossling, who co-coaches the Fighting Saints with Loui Salituro. “It was a bit of an unfortunate goal, but thanks to our captain and goalkeeper Michael O’Flynn. He kept us in the game. It could have been 3-0 or 4-0 at half.”
Instead, behind Flynn, the Fighting Saints lived to fight in the second half, and this time, they took all of the momentum, at one stage hitting a bar and coming perilously close on another chance.
Scacchia’s tally came against the run of play and was the dagger that STA could not recover from.
Afterwards, Pavan could not underplay the impact of his team’s 4-0 loss to the Fighting Saints earlier this season.
“That was an eye-opener for us,” he said. “We battled hard in the first half, but we just got beat on counter attacks. After that we said ‘You now what? Let’s try to get back to the provincials and see what we can do there.’”
For St. Thomas Aquinas, looking to win its first title since 2013, the back-and-forth of the rivalry made it a special match to be a part of.
“When it’s the third time you play someone, they see what we’ve got, and we see what they’ve got,” said Grossling. “It was a tough loss. Yesterday’s game (a 1-0 semifinal win over two-time defending champion Langley Fundamental) took a lot out of the boys. But that’s to take nothing away from Notre Dame. They are a fantastic team and deserving champions.”
Langley Fundamental finished in the Top 3 at the event for the fourth straight season with a 6-2 win over Brentwood College.
Josh Bhandal of Richmond’s Hugh McRoberts Strikers, and Hyden Koppes of the South Kamloops Titans tied for most goals scored over the tournament and shared the Golden Boot Award.
Notre Dame beat Panorama Ridge in 2007 to win the B.C. AA title, then lost to Surrey’s Thunder in the 2008 final. The Jugglers only other title AA title came in 2002 when it beat PoCo’s Archbishop Carney Stars.
The B.C. Boys Triple A championship begins its three-day run Thursday at Burnaby Lakes.
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