It’s an ancient adage, but one that’s held true for centuries in all of sport: Defence wins championships.
And nowhere was that more apparent than at the Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) field last Thursday as Skeena Taxi used its stingy back corps to suffocate NSK Contracting to the tune of a 3-1 victory in the Prince Rupert Youth Soccer Association’s under-19 division final.
“One of the keys to our team’s success has been its defence; a very strong defensive core,” said Skeena head coach Alex Hogendoorn.
That, and opportunistic strikes.
Skeena midfielder Bryce Meers stepped up on a breakaway nine minutes into the match and potted a goal past a stretching goalkeeper to give Skeena the lead they would never relinquish.
But it was really what came after that may have deflated NSK for the remainder of the first half.
On a routine battle just outside centre circle, Meers took a chance with a long shot from 25 yards out that eluded the goalkeeper, who thought the strike was going wide. It flew into the net and Meers had completed his brace.
Just like that, it was 2-0 for the team in black and NSK never recovered.
“I got lucky on that one,” said Meers after the match.
“I didn’t see it coming.”
After Meers’ second tally, NSK put Marcus Komadina in net.
“Bryce has shown a lot of leadership in the defensive midfield … so we work from the defence up and then it gave our offence the confidence to be creative,” said Hogendoorn.
The half finished with a 2-0 lead for Skeena and then the team’s back end put on a clinic.
Meers and Miguel Cachero, Skeena’s other goal-scorer stayed close to home as NSK launched onslaught after onslaught, only to be stymied by the smothering defence of six or seven Skeena defenders.
“This is a good team we played against too, their [talent level is] about the same as us, it just [came down to] whoever wanted it more,” said Meers.
NSK’s Chris Mair responded in the last minute of the match, dashing Skeena’s shutout hopes with a diving kick that found the back of the goal to make it 3-1. Afterwards, he let out an adrenaline-filled scream at finally breaking through Skeena’s fort-like barriers.
“All respect to Chris Mair and his team because he’s not just a great player but he’s a great leader and a great coach on the field and I gave him credit months ago for the success of that team and called on my team to talk the same way that he talks [on the field] because he’s done an excellent job with that team,” said Hogendoorn.
“They counterattack really well too,” said Meers.
Skeena Taxi got better as the season progressed, to the point of toppling NSK, who for the majority of the year, were untouchable in their winning
Tyler Matalone and Katerina Samaras were also a constant threat up front for Skeena, who won their title with many players playing with the same teammates from previous years.