It’s been almost a quarter century since the last time a soccer tournament was held in Hope (a men’s event, in Memorial Park) — but the Hope Secondary girls’ tournament last Friday and Saturday showed no signs of being a first-time event.
To top it off, the weather was at its absolute best, allowing the school to amaze the eight visiting teams with its beautiful surroundings. Teams travelled from as far away as 100 Mile House, Keremeos and Enderby to take part in the tournament, which guaranteed six games for each team.
Mustangs’ coach, Jeremy Smith has taken Hope girls to the Merritt tournament for a number of years and he picked up some valuable tips from there. One was to have four short games per team on the opening day. This would set up the longer championship-round games for the next day.
Normally, a high school game is two 40-minute halves. Friday, it was two 20s, with two 30-minute halves on Saturday. Everyone went home a little worn-out.
Smith, who was working with the school’s athletics coordinator, Jason Fisher, had ten teams lined up until Wednesday, when one had to drop out. By good luck, it forced an even better way of organizing the event.
“We initially had two pools of five, with everybody playing each other in their group on Friday,” said Smith. “Then we went to pools of three, with two games each in the first round.”
Rather than the normal north-south configuration, two east-west pitches were set up at Hope Secondary and another pitch was set up at C.E. Barry field. Walkie-talkies helped with communications between the two fields.
No ties were allowed, so there were shoot-outs to break stalemates. Hope was involved in two of those, losing out both times.
The second round mixed the top three teams with a second and a third-place team from other pools — and off they went for two more games each. The cream of the crop managed to stay on top through the first two rounds, so by Saturday morning, Keremeos, Chilliwack’s Unity Christian and Langley’s Credo Christian were vying for top spot. Keremeos tied Credo 1-1 in the championship game, then prevailed in the shoot-out.
“I thought Keremeos were going to be a weaker team, because they’re such a small town — but there are eight girls on the team who play club soccer in Penticton,” said Smith.
Hope made it to the second tier and worked against Surrey Christian and 100 Mile House on Saturday. Merritt, Abby Christian and Enderby were in tier three, though Smith said there was a lot of parity between the fourth to ninth-place teams.
Another useful idea that Smith picked up from Merritt was a rule to keep strong teams from running up the score. House hockey tournaments might benefit from it as well. “If you win by a five-goal differential, you lose a point,” said Smith. Instead of three points for a win, you would get two.
In their opening game against Unity on Friday, the rule came into play when Unity posted a 4-0 lead by half time.
“Unity started passing the ball around a lot, after that they pulled their stronger players, so I could use my whole bench,” said Smith. At one point a Unity attacker had an easy shot on an open net… but carefully booted it a few metres to the right, assuring a 4-0 win.
In the second game, Hope had a lot more action around the Enderby net but Cassia McLachlan was Hope’s only scorer, going into the last minute of the 1-1 game. Amanda Lancaster then took a free kick from 30 metres out and Demee Runquist tapped in the rebound to break the tie.
McLachlan’s next goal helped Hope tie Surrey Christian 1-1 on Friday afternoon but they lost in the shoot-out. Against 100 Mile House, on Saturday, Jessica Dupas got the game’s only goal when her corner kick bounced off a defender and into the net. The Mustangs held Surrey Christian to a scoreless draw in their final match — only to lose in the shoot-out. Principal, Rosalee Floyd said, “I was really glad to see the huge support that our Mustangs and other teams received this weekend.
“The positive impact that events like these have on our students is awesome. It’s the feelings of leadership, camaraderie, sportsmanship and teamwork the students remember — and the relationships they have built with their coaches, teachers and other community members.
“Many thanks to Mr. Smith and Mr. Fisher for organizing this event. I heard nothing but positive feedback from community members and parents and coaches from the other teams.