Breakers book their ticket to AA provincials

Kelsey finishes second to Ladysmith at Islands

The Frances Kelsey Breakers earned their way into the provincial AA girls soccer championships by finishing second at the Island tournament last week.

Kelsey hosted the Island tourney, which featured six North Island and two South Island teams contending for three provincial berths. The top teams in each pool were guaranteed a spot at provincials, while the two second-place teams faced off for the third berth.

The Breakers opened pool play with a 1-0 win over St. Michaels University School, getting their lone goal from Hannah Craig in a hard-fought defensive battle.

“It was a tight game,” Kelsey coach Brian Johnston said. “It could have gone either way.”

Kelsey’s next game was a 2-1 win over Mark Isfeld that the Breakers dominated defensively with the exception of one lapse.

“They didn’t get much in behind us,” Johnston said.

Craig opened the scoring for Kelsey at the end of the first half, and Mackenzie Johnston added another goal 15 minutes into the second half. Later in the second, Kelsey generated a great scoring opportunity that was denied by the Isfeld keeper. The ball then went quickly to the other end of the field, where Isfeld scored on a free kick.

“It went from a 3-0 scenario to 2-1 in a matter of seconds,” coach Johnston recalled. “Now we were holding on for our dear lives.”

The Breakers managed to hold on for the last 10 minutes, thanks to some big saves by MacKenna Posey.

By winning their first two games, Kelsey secured first place in their pool, so the 3-2 loss to Brooks in their round-robin final wasn’t a factor.

In the final, the Breakers faced Ladysmith, a team that had previously defeated them 2-1. Ladysmith dominated possession in the first half, but Kelsey created more chances, and Craig scored on a 25-yard howitzer at the whistle to give her team the lead. Kelsey lost a lot of the flow in the second half and allowed two goals.

“We did put on the pressure at the end and we could have tied it, but they deserved the win on the day,” Johnston said.

In the other pool, Ladysmith finished first and Brentwood and Ballenas had to be called back to the pitch an hour after their last pool games for a penalty shootout to determine who went to the third-place game. Brentwood won the shootout, then went on to lose to SMU on penalty kicks in the third-place game.

Kelsey, Ladysmith and SMU will attend provincials in Nelson on May 31-June 3, and Johnston considers his team a contender.

“If all our available bodies can make it, I think we have a chance to win it. We’ll be in there for a shot if we play well.”

Craig, an elite field hockey player who doesn’t play community soccer; Anna Slang, an elite soccer player; and Niki Leech were also members of Kelsey’s field hockey team, and, according to Johnston, are the first athletes from the school to compete at two provincial championships in the same year.

Even though they were set to host the Island tournament, the Breakers still had to earn their way in by finishing among the top teams in a deep North Island championships field a week earlier.

“To be honest, this was the most competitive year for AA soccer in the Island,” Johnston said. “There were 19 teams in total on the Island, with three going to provincials. Out of eight at North Islands, seven could have won it.”

In pool play, Kelsey tied Brooks 2-2, tied Brentwood 1-1, and beat Highlands 3-1 to finish second in their pool behind Brentwood, then beat Ballenas on penalty kicks to finish third overall.

“Our goal was to get in the top four because in the fifth/sixth game, only fifth place was guaranteed to go to Islands,” Johnston said. “Every game was tight.”

Cowichan Valley Citizen