It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for student athletes, that is.
The school sports season is off and running and the first big territorial championship, the Elks Outdoor Soccer Tournament, kicked things off this past weekend in Hay River. Yellowknife had teams from several schools make the trip down Highway 3 looking to get one of the banners up for grabs.
J.H. Sissons managed a sweep of the Grade 4/5 division, winning both the boys and girls titles. The boys defeated Joseph Burr Tyrrell School of Fort Smith in their final while the girls downed Princess Alexandra School of Hay River.
William McDonald kept the winning going as the Wildcats took two banners of their own. The first one came in the Grade 6/7 boys division thanks to their win over Hay River’s Ecole Boreale in the final. The other championship was the Grade 8/9 girls team upending St. Pat’s in an all-Yellowknife final.
St. Pat’s, though, didn’t go away empty-handed as the Irish senior girls AA squad took down Sir John Franklin in the title contest 2-1 in a penalty shootout.
Coach Rob Hart said it’s a love-hate relationship when it comes to shootouts.
“You hate to lose in a shootout because it’s not really a team way to win it but you’re thrilled when you do,” he said.
Sir John Franklin opened the scoring in the final in the first half and Hart said the Falcons took the chance when it became available.
“We were carrying the ball well but they simply seized the opportunity and pounced on us,” he said.
The Irish did have their chances but Sir John Franklin managed to keep them out. Late in the second half, St. Pat’s changed things up offensively and went with an attacking formation and got more pressure on the Falcons goal. It seemed to pay off as they managed to get the equalizer with about five minutes remaining in regulation time.
Hart admitted the sun may have had something to do with it.
“We chose to play with the sun in our eyes in the first half and that meant we didn’t have it in the second half,” he said. “We took a shot which had some height on it and I don’t think their goalkeeper saw it until late and it went off her hands and we were there to put it in.”
With the score tied after regulation, the game went to a five-minute extra time period. The Irish thought they had the game stitched up but their potential game-winner was waved off after they were deemed offside by the referee’s assistant.
“It was a heart-breaker because we saw the flag go up for offside,” said Hart. “Sir John Franklin was upset because they thought they had lost it.”
In the shootout, Irish goalkeeper Denae Lafferty made life a bit easier for her teammates as she stopped the first two shots she faced while the Irish managed to score on four of their shots – they didn’t have to take their fifth shot – to win the shootout and the title.
“Our girls clicked when they had to and they worked well on what we practised,” said Hart. “It’s always good to get a banner early in the season.”
Sir John Franklin was also the runner-up in the senior boys AA division after being beaten by Paul W. Kaeser of Fort Smith.