Despite earning 10th place at the B.C. Girls Soccer 'A' Provincial Championships last week, the highlight of the Pemberton Red Devils' tournament wasn't one of their exciting wins, but rather a tie.
Last time the Red Devils faced off against Kelowna's Immaculata Regional High School, at a tournament earlier in the season, Pemberton lost 8-0.
This time, when Pemberton met their former opponents for a rematch in the second game of the provincial tournament, they drew a score of 1-1.
"It was amazing. It felt like a win," said Alyssa Richman, a Grade 11 student on the Pemberton team. "That was pretty satisfying. We had a better idea of what to expect, and we all around played better as a team."
Knowing they would have to play Immaculata in this tournament, Pemberton went in with a game plan "to see if we could strategize enough and give ourselves a chance to win," said coach Mitch Hunter, adding that the girls "dominated" throughout the second half of the game. Considering the last time Pemberton faced off against Immaculata was early in the season, "we had also improved," Hunter added.
Sixteen Pemberton players from Grades 8 to 12 made the trip to provincials, this year in Penticton from Thursday, May 31 to Saturday, June 2.
Immaculata, who went on to take third place among the 16 teams competing at the provincial championships, was just one of the tough opponents the Red Devils had to face in their four-team pool.
After entering provincials seeded in third place—which was "super surprising," said Richman—Pemberton began the three-game round robin with a 3-2 win over Fort St. James, before tying with Immaculata. They suffered a 5-1 loss against Langley's Credo Christian High School to finish third in their pool.
"We just got outran, and I think we got tired, to be honest," said Richman, adding that the girls fared much better in their fourth game of the tournament. "We played really well as a team again and were completing a lot of passes."
The Red Devils took the win over Grand Forks, allowing Pemberton to play for ninth place. They fell to St. Andrew's Regional High School, from Victoria, in their final game to secure the 10th place title.
"I think, if before we played any games we had been told 'you came 10th,' we would have been happy, but after seeing the other teams—we got really unlucky with our pool, because we had some really good teams in our pool—so I think we could have been top five," Richman said. "I think a lot of us, and the older students in particular, were pretty frustrated, but not unhappy."
The top-10 finish capped off a successful season for the Red Devils since they started practicing in mid-March, which included winning all three games during their single-day zone qualifying tournament to earn their spot at provincials.
"The girls got better all season long," said Hunter, adding that it was his first year coaching the squad. "I think they just did well at committing to get better as a group and play as a team.
The girls' success was compounded by the fact that this year's roster only included three Grade 12 students, Hunter explained. "For a young team, we played really well ... and had some really good moments during the tournament; won some really big games, and the girls never quit in the games that we lost against the top teams," he said.
"Overall it was just a fantastic success for us."