How quickly young girls grow up.
The Okotoks Girls U12 United came together and grew over the past season to win Alberta Soccer Association Tier IV provincial title Sunday by downing NW Central (Stony Plain) 4-1 Sunday in Calgary.
“We started off closer to a developmental team and really came together and gelled as a team,” said U12 coach Nathan Len. “We formed into an amazing well oiled machine… They had their ups and downs, but we peaked at the right time of the year.”
Okotoks’ top scorer, Lainey Fischer, was overwhelmed with the gold medal.
“I thought we could get maybe bronze because our team went okay in the league this year,” the 10-year-old Fischer said. “I was just kind of surprised — like Holly Molly!
“In the provincials you have to be pumped up.”
Okotoks’ Jimena Felix de Alva had a brace in the final. Contributing a goal each were Gracyn Sekura and Fischer.
Fischer finished the tournament with a team high six goals.
The Okotoks squad was a mix of players who were playing up a division or were first and second-year players.
United finished fourth overall in the Calgary Minor Soccer Association standings. Impressive, but far from making them a heavy favourite in the tournament.
The Okotoks squad went undefeated at the provincial tournament — outscoring the opposition 28-3 in the four games. Okotoks won their two round-robin games, downing Lago Lindo from Edmonton 3-1 and then shutting out Camrose Vikings 12-0 on Saturday.
Fischer and Julia Len had hat tricks over the Vikes.
They advanced to the semifinals to face the CNEU Dynamite — a team that had beat Okotoks in the regular season.
Not this time, Okotoks advanced to the final with a 5-1 victory.
“We had a game plan going in and the girls executed perfectly,” Len said. “We took away their offensive strength and hit them with speed and positioning… We were by far the fastest team at the tournament.”
They then took the title with the 4-1 win over NW Central.
Len said the squad’s defence was united all weekend in shutting down the opposition. Goalie Maria Regner was spectacular in allowing only three goals.
“She was by far the best goalie of the tournament,” Len said. “Absolutely outstanding.”
While the United U12 was mining gold in Calgary, the Okotoks United U14 girls struck silver at home at the Crescent Point Regional Field House.
The hard-working Okotoks squad was nipped 2-0 by the Calgary Rangers in the Tier IV final.
“This was a very good game for us,” said United U14 coach Richard Vervoort. “Calgary attacks very well — well coached and a little bit bigger than us.”
Okotoks had their chances. They missed on a penalty shot that missed the top of the net by inches. The Ranger goalie also played a strong game.
“We had our chances, a different bounce here and there and it could have gone the other way,” Vervoort said. “Our defence and goalie Liv Baker was also very good.”
The game was indicative as to how much Okotoks improved in the short season. They had got whooped 8-2 by the Rangers in the regular season.
“This time we were tougher, played better and our shots on nets were pretty good,” she said.
However, at provincials Okotoks stepped up its game.
“We were excellent in the round-robin and in the semifinal we beat Lago Lindo 4-1 (Sunday morning),” Vervoort said. “We probably had the best game of our season — everything came together. It was a team effort.”
Okotoks’ Rylie Perry said the team’s communication was much better than the regular season.
“Our passing was really good, much better than the start of the year,” Perry said. “We were also talking much better – communicating letting each other know where we were.”
The Okotoks U14 girls went 2-0 in the round robin.
Other results for Okotoks at provincials championships were: at Crescent Point Regional Field House (All Tier IV) — Okotoks Boys U12, 1-2 (11th); Okotoks Boys U16, 1-3 (6th). At Medicine Hat — Okotoks Boys U18 Tier III, 2-2 (5th). At Grande Prairie — Okotoks Girls U16 Tier III, 1-1-1 (9th).