For the first time in four years, the Pemberton Red Devils are off to soccer provincials.
The Red Devils downed Stratford Hall 2-1 to take third place at the zone championship in Vancouver on Oct. 23. The win secured Pemberton the third and final provincial berth for the tournament in Nakusp from Nov. 6 to 8.
Maxi Schmitz and Chris Read tallied the goals for Pemberton, which led 2-0 until late in the second half, when Stratford scored on a penalty kick and pushed to equalize.
"It was a good game we dominated, but in the last 10 minutes, it was close," coach Dave Townley said.
In group play, Pemberton finished with three draws, on paper, at least. Pemberton played to a 2-2 tie with Mulgrave School, with Schmitz scoring both goals, before taking draws against St John's and St. Pat's to complete group play. The Red Devils played shootouts at the end of all three games, winning all three, but the extra points did not count in the standings. Instead of being in a position to fight for a zone championship with an automatic berth in provincials, the Red Devils instead had a game with plenty on the line against Stratford.
Keeping the games close was the result of strong goaltending from goaltender Liam Falloon as well as consistent play from sweeper Laine Gabriel, according to Townley, who went on to praise the entire defensive core.
Heading into provincials, Townley stressed the team will be looking to tighten up the finer details of the game like set plays and throw-ins while finding a way to spark the offence.
Townley said he was also proud of the Red Devils for their performance in a particularly short season, when they were only able to play exhibition games against Mount Currie and Whistler before the zone tournament. He also noted nearly half the team is in Grade 10, with several young players brought into the fold this year.
"We don't have a season (in terms of league play), but we try to practice," Townley said, noting the first meaningful game of the year was the tournament opener against Mulgrave.
The Red Devils will be fundraising to help offset the cost of their trip in the days leading up to the tournament. Townley said Walsh Construction has already chipped in $2,000 to help cover the cost of a bus.
"We're hoping other people can join in," he said. "We've only got this weekend to raise money and we're gone next week. It's all very short."