VANCOUVER — Richard Tagle isn’t calling together soccer players from all parts of the country to play together like the Canadian senior women’s national team does.
Yet the head coach of Chilliwack’s Sardis Falcons is adopting a similar approach as it applies to the world of B.C. girls high school soccer, and it’s one that has helped a former Fraser Valley hopeful build its status, over the a steady three-season climb, to that of B.C. Triple A provincial contenders.
“Sometimes I equate what we do here at Sardis to the national team because we get kids from all different clubs to come together and play for their school,” Tagle explained Friday afternoon after the Falcons survived a perilous three rounds of penalty kicks to defeat North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers and win the second annual UBC High School Invitational, a 16-team event which concluded at Thunderbird Stadium.
“The job that (assistant coach) Shaun (Claver) and I have is not necessarily to improve their skill level because that’s hard to do over a two-month season,” added Tagle. “It’s more towards getting the girls to work together and then to take it from there.”
It’s a recipe that is working.
Sardis finished 13th at the 2016 provincials, then made the Final Four last season before losing to eventual runners-up Fleetwood Park 2-1 in the provincial semifinals en route to a fourth-place finish.
They’ve served notice, however, that they are better than ever, advancing to Friday’s championship final at UBC by posting three straight clean sheets.
Sardis beat North Peace 3-0 in its Thursday opener, then later that day beat the Kelowna Owls by the same 3-0 score.
On Friday morning, they blanked Kitsilano’s Blue Demons 2-0, and when Grade 11 forward Amber Feaver slotted home the ball from close quarters in the 11th minute against Argyle, the Falcons had not only taken a 1-0 lead but had scored nine straight without conceding a goal.
The Pipers, however, proved especially resilient.
On a day in which Sardis carried the play for huge stretches, Argyle was able to equalize on a well-struck 24-yard blast in the 25th minute by Grade 11 forward Nicole Jermchuk.
The 60-minute affair ended in a 1-1 deadlock and under tourney rules, a three-round shoot-out ensued.
Sardis’ team MVP, Grade 11 keeper Tess Venables, shone brightest of all during the session, stopping all three kicks, including the tourney title-clinching save off a blast by the Pipers’ team MVP Lilia Miki.
Venables went horizontal, diving to her left to punch out the well-aimed blast by Miki.
Prior to Venables’ save on Miki, Sardis had scored the only goal of the penalty kick shootout off a blast by senior forward and Fraser Valley Cascades recruit Mackenzie Silbernagel.
“I am happy because the girls are coming together faster than I thought they would,” added Tagle, whose current seniors were all 10th graders when the Falcons made that initial breakthrough two seasons ago by qualifying for the provincials. “Last year we came to this tournament and we were sloppy. But the girls are building camaraderie and they are really getting to know each other.”
Argyle’s path to the final opened with a 4-0 win over Brentwood College, a 1-0 win over Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks, and then a 1-0 semifinal win over the defending B.C. champion Panorama Ridge Thunder of Surrey.
Last season’s defending UBC tourney champs, Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons, who lost to Panorama Ridge on kicks in last June’s B.C. AAA provincial final match, were first round losers upon their return, falling 1-0 to Kelowna in their Thursday opener.
Other quarterfinal scores saw Panorama Ridge edge Victoria’s Oak Bay Bays 2-1, and Kitsilano beat Crofton House in an all-Vancouver city derby 3-0.
This season’s UBC Invite was especially meaningful for all of the teams invited as the same set of grounds will be used May 30-June 1 when the B.C. AAA championships, hosted by Kitsilano, are staged at UBC.
Tournament organizer Jesse Symons, the UBC Thunderbirds head women’s coach, hoped to be able to expand the format of his school’s invitational tournament next season to include 24 teams.
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