by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
It was no surprise at the at the 2018 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women's Soccer Championships that the host SAIT Trojans and NAIT Trojans would meet up in the gold medal match at Cohos Commons Field's state-of-the-art synthetic turf field Sunday.
Both teams were undefeated during the ACAC regular season, SAIT Trojans 12 wins, 57 goals for, 3 goals against and NAIT Ooks 10 wins, 59 goals for, 3 goals against.
Both teams had a bye Friday with their first kick of the ball with semi-final action Saturday.
In the semi-finals the Trojans shutout the Lethbridge Kodiaks 3-0 with goals by Rachelle Labranche (37:21), Mataya Blakney (66:35) and Deanna Kuan shortly after at 68:03.
Kodiaks stopper Brittany Klein made 17 saves while Ooks' Amy Offredi had seven saves.
The Ooks were challenged by Edmonton crosstown rival Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder, squeaking out a 1-0 victory with an early goal at 2:38 off the foot of Kennedy Hennig.
|2018 ACAC Women's Soccer Champions, NAIT Ooks|
Thunder goalie Selina Verkland stopped 13 shots while Toni Burse corralled six Thunder attempts.
"It was a really tight game and it was not our best performance of the season," said Ooks coach Carol Holt. "We defended really well and their goalie played well. Even though we scored early, we thought we would create more chances but they were pressing hard."
Ooks had beaten the Thunder 7-1 and 2-1 during the regular season.
The gold medal matchup Sunday would be a chance for the Trojans to break a 16-year jinx, having last won in 2002.
Since 2002 the Ooks had won six women's banner the last in 2016 at the end of an impressive three-peat run.
In the ACAC Women's Championship Soccer preview we mentioned in the footnote section for the Ooks that 'Ooks have two international student/athletes from Japan with Yumi Ishimura (Kisarazu, Chiba) and Yuri Akatsu (Yokohama, Kanagawa)."
Little did one know that the two would prove a major factor.
On an Ooks attack, Akatsu passed to teammate and ACAC regular season top scorer Kaily Mohn (15 goals) for a quick give-and-go with Akatsu passing from the right side to Ishimura inside the crease with Ishimura trapping the ball, turning and scoring with her opposite foot at 25:19.
SAIT's Deanna Kuan would tie the game 1-1 at 46:44 beating Ooks' goalie Toni Burse with a beautiful leg extension at full speed with two defenders close in front of her.
Kuan a few nights prior had been honoured as the ACAC Women's Soccer Player of the Year.
The teams would go into overtime.
A quick corner kick by Ishimura to Akatsu would catch the Trojans defence off guard, Akatsu lobbing the ball past SAIT goalie Amy Offredi at 109:52 to secure the W.
Offredi would be credited with 14 saves and Burse seven.
Akatsu was selected as tournament MVP.
Of the two international student/athletes from Japan, Ooks coach Holt said: "They just got better and better for us as the season went on. They worked so hard and stuck with the game plan and they are so much fun to watch. They did things that we haven't had before.
"They had come here to study and improve their English. Initially, with the language barrier, I would be lying to say that I didn't think that it would be a concern. But they practiced English all the time they were here. They were teaching us a lot about the game and we were teaching them about our culture. NAIT has claimed four silver medals at the CCAA Women's Soccer Championships in the years 2015, 2014, 2011 and 2010.
ACAC last gold medaled at the CCAA Championships with the MacEwan Griffiths, 2013; Concordia Thunder, 2009 and Lethbridge 1994.
Bronze medal game report is from the ACAC website game recap:
The Lethbridge College Kodiaks women's soccer team is your 2018/19 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) bronze medalists.
Goalkeeper Paige Gattafoni stopped three penalty shots after 90 minutes of regulation to help her team to a 2-1 victory over the Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder in their Sunday morning contest played at SAIT's Cohos Commons Field.
Eight minutes into the game, the Kodiaks scored the contest's first goal when Vicki Noronha beat the Thunder goalkeeper.
The Thunder waited until the 60th minute to tie the game when Kyra Robinson scored on Gattafoni.
When the final whistle was blown, the teams went straight to penalty kicks to decide things.
Gattafoni kept three shots out of her own net, as her teammates scored on each attempt to end the game.
Also competing the ACAC championships were The Kings University Eagles and Red Deer Queens.