By Dan Plouffe
OSU 2 West Ottawa 1 (extra time)
They may have been the youngest athletes there, but that sure didn’t keep them from putting on perhaps the most entertaining show of the East Region Cup finals on Sunday, Sept. 18 at Ben Franklin Park.
Facing an opponent that carried a perfect 14-0 record in league play, the West Ottawa Warriors went toe-to-toe with the under-13 OSU Force girls and earned a 1-1 score after regulation time.
In the end, all that did was provide the stage for OSU to win the contest in dramatic fashion as Hailey Martin slid and directed home an Emily Bowles free kick to clinch the victory for her side in the final moments of extra time.
“I was on the ground waiting to see if it went in,” Martin recounts. “Then it went in and everybody just started screaming. I started crying out of joy. I was so happy.”
Anna Munro scored for OSU in regulation, while Anonda Hoppner replied for West Ottawa as the top two teams from the East Region Soccer League U13 girls’ Level 3 division squared off once more in the Cup final.
The thrill of the moment when his team converted the winning free kick against a tough opponent made coach Widdgin Bernard feel a little bit like the 13-year-old girls he leads.
“I got very excited,” smiles Bernard, whose group also went undefeated last year. “I was running down the sidelines because I didn’t want it to go into penalty kicks.”
As far as not liking the shootout, Bernard can certainly find an ally in West Ottawa coach Dave Foley, whose team lost by three and four goals in their earlier meetings with OSU this season.
“I’m just glad it didn’t go to penalty shots,” Foley says. “It’s disappointing, yeah, but I’d rather lose in extra time than have the game decided on penalty shots.”
Foley’s Warriors can take solace in the fact that they would have been the first team to claim a point against OSU this season if the match had ended after regulation.
“It’s a very strong group we were playing against,” Foley notes. “To go 2-1 in extra time is enjoyable. Our team played well. I’m very happy with our performance. It’s really nice to see the intensity and the level of soccer picking up in the city.”
Facing a tough opponent like the Warriors is the exact kind of experience that OSU desired as it prepares for a foray into the Ontario Youth Soccer League against the province’s top clubs next year.
“The OYSL is going to be a big challenge,” acknowledges Bernard, noting that one big benefit they do enjoy is that most girls have played on the same team for five years – a rarity for a U13 group. “I think we’ll be able to compete at that level.”
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