One week the Claremont Spartans are handily defeated in their Ryan Cup semifinal and the next they’re Island champs, having defeated the Ryan Cup champions to get there.
Sanja Dodos put the Oak Bay Breakers up 1-0 in the first half of the final at Hampton Park on Tuesday afternoon. But the Spartans responded with a three goal second half to claim the title as the top AAA high school girls soccer team on the Island, 3-1.
Both teams move onto provincials in Kamloops, June 2-4.
Leading the way in Tuesday’s final was Spartans striker Jenn McNeil with two goals, both well-handled from in close. Left midfielder Shannon Elder scored the Spartans’ other goal off a corner kick that went untouched into the Breakers’ net.
It was the copycat of an earlier goal in the day scored in Claremont’s win over Brooks.
“As soon as I shot it I was thinking that’s a bad corner,” said Elder of her second corner-kick goal of the day.
“But then it went in.”
Eight days earlier Claremont was eliminated from the Ryan Cup semifinals by the Glenlyon Norfolk School Gryphons, 3-0. GNS then fell to Oak Bay in the Ryan Cup final, making for an odd triangle of who-can-beat-who.
“We just had a bad game,” said Claremont co-coach Julie Ross. Ross was calm and upbeat even when Oak Bay took a 1-0 lead.
“That was one of the big things for us, to come out ready and play a strong game and we did,” Ross said. “And we kept it up in the second half.”
Claremont now have the opportunity to defend their provincial championship, a monumental task but not one above their ability.
“Claremont’s a tough team with a lot of talented players, they’ve been there before,” said Oak Bay coach Brent Garraway, who takes his team back to provincials after a surprising miss last year.
Elder didn’t want to get too high on her team’s chances in Kamloops.
“Winning is a possibility. We just have to work really hard.”
Aside from her goal, Elder’s play at left midfield was a difference maker in the Island final.
The game was won in the midfield with Elder and Shaylyn Crisp the architects for the Spartans attack.
At times, the game hinged on a one-on-one battle between the Grade 12 Elder and Oak Bay’s spirited Grade 11 Maddie Secco.
“Secco leaves every part of her on the field. (She’s) the backbone of the team,” Garraway said.
“People downplay some of her (exceptional) goals as flukes because they don’t understand, that’s just how good she is.”
This is Secco’s third year with the team, having helped the team to provincial silver as a Grade 9.
“It was disappointing not making it last year. We had the best team ever but couldn’t get through Islands,” Secco said.
“This year, one of our goals was to win the Ryan Cup and we’ve got a lot of confidence from it.”