Carihi Grade 9 player Gilliane Stewardson drives the ball with Kaitlyn Dreger in support during the Island Championship final. Photo submitted

Carihi senior girls secure fourth Island Championship

By Aleah Jordan

This past week Carihi’s Senior girls became Island Champions for the fourth time in Tyee history.

The Tyees started the tournament in Duncan with a solid game against Ladysmith, each player got a taste of what’s to come in these upcoming matches. The Carihi girls are known for their intelligent passing, and this strength allowed Inara Jhawer to score twice in the first 35 minutes. This lead gave the team a sense of comfort going into the second half, where Avery Sorenson finished the game with yet another goal. The final scoreline was 3-0 for Carihi.

Later that day, the Tyees took on Francis Kelsey, knowing that if they pulled off a win, they would virtually secure a spot in finals. The girls had never played this Duncan team before and did not know what to expect. All nerves aside, Kaitlyn Dreger was able to shoot from outside of the 18, scoring a superb first goal. As the game progressed, the Tyees enjoyed the majority of possession and their passing created many opportunities. Hana Jennings put an unstoppable in-swinging corner kick into the box, and the ball curled perfectly into the top corner for the second goal. The second half proved an even affair, but keeper Tory Stewart was rarely troubled. The final score was 2-0 for Carihi.

After the Tyees had a well-deserved rest, they were ready for another day of games. Though the rain and cold came as a surprise, the girls were able to embrace the cooler weather and were excited to start day two. Once again, the girls went into the game knowing little about the other team, Esquimalt from Victoria, but trusted in their own abilities. Jhawer started the game off with a strong strike at the ball, securing their first goal.

The Tyees continued to pass and create opportunities for not only the striker to score, but midfield players as well. A prime example is Gillianne Stewardson, a center midfield, who drove a ball at the keeper after some unselfish forward play. Her shot was blocked but Avery Sorenson was well placed to score off the rebound.

At halftime, the Tyees were up 2-0 and (coach) John Jepson decided to challenge the girls by playing them in positions they don’t usually play. Although Nyla Haider usually plays center back, the decision to play her left wing was a good one, for she scored off a stellar cross from Talia Hadikin within the first few minutes. This goal was followed shortly by the Tyees’ newest player Kiera “Apples” Arsenault, who was in the perfect place at the right time. Final score was 4-0 to Carihi. More importantly, the Tyees had won the group and in doing so had secured a berth for an unprecedented fourth successive season to the Provincial Championship.

“This year we had the benefit of the experience from last years final to be able to relax and play our game. Which allowed us to come through with a better result,” said Grade 9 player Gillianne Stewardson.

The Tyees’ final game was against Ballenas of Parksville. To win this game would mean making Tyee history, for it would be the fourth time in Carihi girls’ soccer that they would have won the Island Championships. The girls were aware that earlier this year, the Carihi Senior boys won their respective North Islands and Island Championships, and for the girls to do the same would be once in a lifetime achievement.

Though the girls had lots of nerves going into finals, they were able to rely on what they know best, passing. The girls continued to move the ball well but Ballenas worked hard and reduced space across the park. Ballenas also had pace up front but the Tyee defence stood strong with central defenders Nyal Haider and captain Haley Wingert determined and disciplined. It was a challenging game and both teams put up a good fight and enjoyed opportunities to score. It seemed everyone watching the game felt the excitement and tension from the players and coaches.

Like a flashback to the earlier Francis Kelsey game, Dreger received the ball far outside of the 18, an open position to strike the ball and she stroke a powerful shot, gliding above everyone’s heads into the back of the net. Every Tyee and fan let out a sigh of relief, and the girls continued to play their hardest. Once again, Stewardson earned a chance at net, and while other times she was not able to get the ball past the goalie, she was finally able to evade the keeper and hit the back of the net.

A fantastic two days and a tremendous achievement from a team with no fewer than four Grade 9 starters and half of the 14 player squad of Junior age. The future and present remain bright but it was the Grade 12s who often led by example this past few days.

Unlike last year the team doesn’t have to travel far for the AA Provincial Championship. Carihi are hosting the tournament. In less than two weeks, 16 teams, over 300 athletes, coaches and parents will invade Campbell River and will vie for opportunity to claim a “Banner.” The tournament will be held in two venues, Carihi and Willow Point with games starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 30 and concluding with the final at Carihi at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, June 1. Final qualification rounds continue this week with a full schedule to be made available next week. Local support would be greatly appreciated.

“To make the Provincial Championship for a fourth successive year means so much to me and my team mates. To actually score such an important goal made it even more memorable,” said grade 12 player Kaitlyn Dreger.

“I can’t believe that with such a young team we did so well! I am so proud to have been a part of this journey,” said Jolyn Barley, Grade 12.

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Carihi’s Talia Hadikin looks to drive the ball down the line during the Island Championship final. Photo submitted

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