By Charlie Pinkerton
As the Cumberland Cobras Under-15 girls’ season carried on they kept hitting the checkpoints that their coach had set.
“We set three goals at the beginning of the season,” second-year coach Pat Boyle told the Ottawa Sportspage.
“One was to succeed in the Ontario Cup, which we did. Another was to win our league, which we finished tied for, for the second year in a row, and the other was to win the (East Region Soccer League Shield),” he explained.
The final of those prizes was the Ontario Cup, which the team won in a dramatic 2-1 come from behind victory.
Ella Riley scored Cumberland’s game-winning goal on a 77th minute penalty kick. Sheridan Michel, who’s a defender alongside Riley, paced nervously back and forth at the field’s half before sprinting to embrace Riley after she buried the shot into the net’s bottom left-hand corner. Riley and Michel have played together for the Cobras for more than five years.
“I turned around and everyone screamed and yelled at me and it was a big group hug,” Riley remembered. “Everyone was screaming. It was so much fun, I was so excited.”
Last year the same Cobras team lost in the quarterfinals of the Ontario Cup in a game Boyle says they “probably could have won, or should have won.”
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“Going into this year the girls had a lot of motivation,” Boyle said.
This year, the coach said the girls handled higher pressure situations better.
“I think a year of maturity and being in the program allowed them to be extra calm in certain situations and extra ruthless in certain situations,” Boyle added, who said that his team trains to an “OPDL standard.” The Ontario Player Development League is the province’s highest level of play for U13-U17 age groups. Though Cumberland did have teams that competed in the OPDL this year, their U15 girls team competed in the ERSL.
Still, they left no goal unachieved. “We got all three of them,” Riley said excitedly.
Boyle said their Ontario Cup victory was a form of “validation” for the team.
“For me, there was a sense of pride for these girls,” Boyle added. “Just knowing what they go through on a day-to-day basis and how much effort and heart they put into their training and soccer just culminates to being a really awesome experience.”
Winning the Ontario Cup qualified the girls for the National Championships. They finished 4th at nationals in Laval in October.