CLOSE CALL - From left

CLOSE CALL - From left

Red Deer schools impress at soccer championship

Two Red Deer high schools are celebrating success on the soccer pitch this past weekend after laying claim to medals at the annual Central Alberta High School Soccer League (CAHSSL) final tournament.

The Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School (LTCHS) Raiders senior girls’ soccer team came away from the annual tournament wearing gold while the two teams from Notre Dame High School (NDHS) came away with silver.

“Today was an excellent game. Any of the two teams could have won but they worked hard and they beat us,” said NDHS boys’ Head Coach Humberto Aspillaga after his team’s heartbreaking 1-0 loss to an undefeated Central Alberta Christian High School (CACHS) Knights in Saturday’s final at the Collicutt soccer fields.

“Both teams played excellent and I think well deserved for CACHS. They dominated the entire season.”

The NDHS Cougars, who finished the season in second place with a 7-1 record, were able to contain the top team in the CAHSSL boys’ league for the majority of the match thanks to a strong effort from their defense and goaltender, which in turn opened up some offensive possibilities for the Red Deer team.

It took until the 75th minute for CACHS’s offense to finally solve Notre Dame keeper Alex Elkins, as Trevor Laynes slotted a rebound past a sprawling Elkins to give his team a late lead.

“They have a great team. Strong physically and mentally. They have good skills and they never give up. It was only in the second half, just 10 or 12 minutes before the end of the game, they had a breakthrough and they did well, they were able to score,” Aspillaga said of the CACHS side, which stormed to a perfect 8-0 season on the way to their first ever CAHSSL title.

It was the only goal that anyone would score, as the goaltenders of both teams slammed the door shut.

Aspillaga said the goaltending was especially impressive late in the game as Notre Dame tried to make a push to tie it up.

“We changed the structure of the game,” he said, adding that his team moved to an offense heavy 1-4-4-1 formation before switching to an even more front-end loaded 4-4-2 approach in the final five minutes in an attempt to draw even in the tense championship contest. But it was not to be.

“It was too late. In the last 12, 13 minutes of the game we tried to battle back but it didn’t happen. Good for them.”

Despite the disappointing finish, Aspillaga said he was happy with how his team played in the game and throughout the season.

“We started very early in the year. We tried to run at seven in the morning with the team. Soccer is something that we have to improve the profile of in the schools in Red Deer. The schools are getting better and better,” he said.

“It was a good game and it was entertaining. Lots of people came out on a beautiful day and they saw a very good game.”

Meanwhile, on the other Collicutt soccer field, two long-time rivals faced off in the girls’ final as the defending champion LTCHS Raiders took on the second place NDHS Cougars.

Led by eventual tournament MVP Kiera Fujimoto, the Thurber girls were not about to be denied as they posted a 6-2 victory on the way to their second consecutive CAHSSL title.

The win was the culmination of one of the most dominant soccer seasons in the CAHSSL in recent memory, which saw the Raiders roll to a perfect 10-0 season, putting up a total of 98 goals in the process, including a 14-1 steamrolling of HJ Cody High School in Saturday’s semi-final.

To put that in perspective, their next closest opponent, Notre Dame, scored an impressive 36 goals over the same span.

The LTCHS side has also gone undefeated over the past two soccer seasons.