By Dan Plouffe
OSU 2 – Nepean 2 (OSU wins 6-5 in penalties)
The Ottawa South United Force and Nepean Hotspurs under-16 girls’ soccer teams just couldn’t get enough of each other this season. As if a regulation 2-2 contest, extra time, and the standard 10 shooters weren’t enough, the rivals went an additional two rounds of penalty kicks before OSU finally prevailed 6-5 on penalties.
“These two teams have a history,” notes Nepean coach Louis Maneiro, whose squad previously tied one game with the Force and lost twice in the dying seconds. “Throughout the year, we’ve battled back and forth.
“It was a good game, well-fought between the two teams, and to decide the game on the penalty shots, well, it just shows that the best two teams are in the final.”
Maneiro credited both clubs for their strong player-development programs and noted that it’s always beneficial to compete against the best.
“Both teams worked hard. It was a good match, back and forth,” agrees OSU coach Audra Sherman. “(A shootout) is a sad way to win and lose, but someone’s got to win, and we were lucky this time.”
Miriam Franchetto scored both Nepean markers in regulation time, while Lisa Roesler and Alyssa Rimac replied for OSU to force the deciding penalty kicks.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Sherman adds. “I was debating whether I wanted to look or not.”
It seems Sherman wasn’t alone in wanting to cover her eyes as a strange hush remained over the Ben Franklin Park field even after big goals or saves in the shootout. The tension in the air only grew thicker as each shot got progressively more important.
OSU goalkeeper Emily Barnard finally put an end to it and set off the celebration by blocking the seventh Nepean shot, which allowed Samantha Shore’s goal to stand as the winner.
“I saw everybody get up, and I was shaking,” recounts Barnard, whose first thought after making the decisive save was disbelief. “I was trying to run, but there were so many emotions. Mostly I was just so happy. It was great.”
The victory put the wraps on an undefeated campaign for the Force against East Region opponents – a goal they laid out prior to the season as they returned to the regional league after being relegated from the Level 1 Ontario Youth Soccer League last year.
“We’re a family,” Barnard describes. “We’ve had our ups and our downs, but we always managed to pull through and support each other. We stuck together, and we said, ‘This is what needs to be done. We want to go out undefeated, we want to go to OYSL,’ and we pulled it together.”
Being a close-knit “family” is an idea their coach echoes as well, explaining she has a team that fights for one another – a theme Sherman expects will carry on as they take their second crack at competing against Ontario’s best in the provincial league.
“Going to OYSL will be very good for them,” says Sherman, whose squad was led offensively by Sashini Senarath’s 18 goals in league play. “I think (getting relegated) provided that hunger that we wanted. And we kind of know what to expect now. This time around, I think they’ll be good and be a little more successful.”
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.