By Dan Plouffe, published Sept. 22 in Ottawa This Week
Ottawa South United put on an incredible show of Force and Power as its teams went five-for-five in championship contests to capture a majority of the division titles at the East Region Cup finals last weekend at Ben Franklin Park.
“To us, that’s the culmination of a great year for the club all around,” says OSU club general manager Jim Lianos. “I know the buzzword now is, ‘development, development,’ but I’ve never read anywhere that you can’t develop and win at the same time.”
Four OSU squads – the boys and girls in both the under-13 and U16 divisions – wrapped up undefeated seasons against regional opponents, including East Region Soccer League and Cup play.
But despite the end result, there were still numerous heart-stopping moments for two OSU teams in particular as they survived penalty-kick shootouts against their Nepean Hotspurs rivals.
“It was so nerve-wracking,” notes OSU Power player Tori MacFarlane, whose U15 girls team prevailed in a 12-round shootout. “I was close to crying. It was really scary.”
MacFarlane earned a penalty kick near the end of regulation time but was stopped by Nepean goalkeeper Karina Katsepontes to preserve a 0-0 deadlock. MacFarlane wasn’t to be denied again, however, as she converted her first attempt in penalty kicks and then fired home the winner on OSU’s 12th shot on the heels of goalie Caitlin McNamara’s fifth penalty-kick save.
“I was embarrassed the first time I missed, so I was real excited,” MacFarlane recounts. “I had to believe in myself. And my teammates were really supportive. I’m so glad we won.”
The OSU U13 girls won their 17th East Region match in 17 tries, but no one pushed them harder than the West Ottawa Warriors, who fell 2-1 in the final moments of extra time when Hailey Martin slid and directed home an Emily Bowles free kick.
“I was on the ground waiting to see if it went in. It went in and everybody just started screaming,” Martin describes. “I started crying out of joy. I was so happy.”
The feeling was very similar for OSU U16 goalkeeper Emily Barnard, who turned aside the seventh Nepean Hotspurs shooter in penalty kicks following a hard-fought 2-2 draw through regulation and extra time.
“I saw everybody get up, and I was shaking,” recalls Barnard, who first felt shocked that she succeeded in the contest that favours the shooter over the goalie. “I was trying to run towards my teammates, but there were so many emotions. Mostly I was just so happy. It was great.”
The Hotspurs U16s came oh-so-close to knocking off the 12-0-3 ERSL-champion Force, capping a highly impressive 10-3-2 season of their own with the Cup silver medal.
“These two teams have a history. Throughout the year, we’ve battled back and forth,” explains Nepean coach Louis Maneiro, highlighting both clubs’ commitment and success in player development. “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.”
The host Hotspurs did celebrate a title in one division, U15 boys, although the final wasn’t much work, or fun, for them at all. Their opponents from Pegasus-Kingston elected to default and pay a fine since too many of its players were busy with hockey try-outs on the same day as the Sunday, Sept. 18 finals.
The other OSU winners were the U16 boys (6-0 winners over Nepean) and the U13 boys (4-1 victors against Gloucester).
The Gloucester Hornets took home one piece of hardware in the girls’ U14 division, which they won with a 4-1 victory over Cataraqui of Kingston.
“It was a really great season,” says Hornets coach George Papandreau, identifying team camaraderie as a major key to his group’s success. “The girls supported each other and came to every practice – even if they were injured. To me, that shows that they’re really having a good time and enjoying themselves.”
West Ottawa finished off its storybook run in U14 boys’ Cup play – which included a 2-1 semi-final round victory over ERSL-champion OSU – with a 5-1 triumph over Cumberland.
“We’re extremely happy for the boys,” notes West Ottawa coach Mark Dehler, whose team went 5-7 in league play. “They went through some dips in form, but really came back hard the last five or six games. They’ve worked hard all season and this is the evidence of that.”
Nepean (boys) and OSU (girls) won the U17/18 divisions in their Cup finals played earlier on Aug. 21.
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