Annika Nolte and Mya Steller score to lead Dorchester to a 2-1 win, over Smithville,
in the gold medal match of the single-A high school provincial tournament
June 5, 2022
By Rob J. Ross
BELLE RIVER, Ont. - The Dorchester Beavers are OFSAA champions.
Annika Nolte and Mya Steller scored as the Beavers edged Smithville Christian, 2-1, in the OFSAA single-A girls soccer gold medal game, Saturday afternoon, at the Atlas Recreation Centre.
"Feels amazing. We've worked so hard this season and to be undefeated, it's unreal," said Steller, who put the Beavers up 2-0, in the second half. "Everyone was super nervous at first, but we went out there and just played our game. We gutted it out at the end and did great."
Dorchester went undefeated in the three day, 16-team tournament, with six wins and a tie.
"I can't stop crying, I'm so happy and proud of my teammates," Beavers' co-captain Claudia Zavitz said. "It's how cohesive we are. We all supported each other. We all helped each other and lifted each other up and kept working and working to get the win."
Zavitz and Nolte are two players remaining from the 2019 team that placed fourth at OFSAA.
"I was telling a friend, this almost feels like winning an Ontario Cup," Nolte said, referring to the provincial championships for soccer clubs. "I've never won an Ontario Cup. I've come second. To me, this is equal to winning Ontario Cup, especially being in my Grade 12 year, because this is the last game I'll play in any high school sport. This group of girls is my favourite in any sport that I've ever played. This is the best group, the best coaches, the best staff."
The Beavers didn't lose a game all season, finishing first in the Thames Valley Regional Athletics South Division and capturing the WOSSAA single-A title, blitzing Strathroy Holy Cross, 5-0, in the final.
"We worked so hard to accomplish this and our coach put in all the energy he could to support us and give us the motivation we needed to finish it," Zavitz said.
Andreas Nolte, who coaches the Beavers alongside Stephanie Young, deflected any praise directed his way.
"It's the players. They gutted it out," coach Nolte said. "They played seven games, in three days, 420 minutes of soccer and there are players that who did not sub. They had to be on the field. That's them. That's not the coach. It's a joy to be a part of the ride. It's absolutely fantastic."
For co-captains Nolte and Zavitz, a three year wait is over, thanks to the COVID pandemic wiping out the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
"We've been waiting these years, when we haven't been able to come out and haven't been able to have an OFSAA. I've really been looking forward to this," Annika said. "We made it to the semifinals in my Grade 9 year. It was very sad not being able to move on."
Annika led this year's team at OFSAA, with 16 goals. Dorchester's top sniper had four goals in the WOSSAA title game.
An Annika blast from mid-field, gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead, five minutes in to the OFSAA gold medal match.
"She's always good for that. That first goal," said Steller, who made, well, a stellar run, to put Dorchester up 2-0, 10 minutes in to the second half.
"We had such a brilliant play, with a Grade nine (Steller), staying wide on the wing, making a run in, the play gets slid through and she finishes," coach Nolte said. "How important was that? We're still protecting and not desperately trying to not go into overtime, because we're so exhausted. That was huge."
Smithville got on the board five minutes after Steller hit the inside of net, scoring on a free kick. The ball hit the cross bar and deflected down just inside the goal line, giving no chance for Beavers' keeper Kayle Smith.
"They scored a gorgeous goal off a set piece," coach Nolte said "They were a good team. A big team. A lot taller than us and they won a lot of aerial battles against us."
Smithville pressed in the dying minutes for the equalizer including a second free kick, this ball keeper Smith snagged to preserve the lead. In the first half, Smith made likely her best save of the tournament, when Smithville broke through for an open shot.
Keeper Smith was a late addition to the team, with only rec soccer experience.
"Our one goalie got injured very early on, so we needed a goalie," Annika said. "She was a friend of another girl on the team. We said, you're coming out to play. She's done amazing. She's come a long way. Now making these wonderful saves, saving us. She's awesome. She's been very aggressive coming out to the ball. She's in there battling."
Dorchester completes an undefeated season, including winning the Gemini Cup, in Tillsonburg, against double-A and triple-A schools.
"Everyone's passion for playing with this team. Everyone's drive and everyone wants to do their best and wants the best for the team," Annika said. "Whether you play five minutes or all 90 minutes in the game, every person puts in the same amount of effort. It's amazing to play with those girls.
All 17 players who came out in preseason, were at OFSAA.
"This is a team. It's not you're a Grade nine, you're a Grade 10, you're a Grade 11, I'm a senior," coach Nolte said. "It's we're here together and we're going to do this together, because we're going to rely on each other. It's fantastic to watch. It's brilliant."
The Beavers had five grade nine players on the roster, including Steller and Jenna Couch, who had the task of marking Smithville's top player.
"Every time they got on the field, it was nothing but hustle, hustle, hustle," said coach Nolte, of the freshmen, also including Faith Snyders, Makenna Brown and Meriem Novak-Hesic.
This season coach Nolte had the opportunity to have both of his daughters, Annika and Bella, on the team.
"I'm not an emotional guy, (but) it pulls at the heart strings," admits the coach. "To be able to coach them at the same time, is awesome. As a dad, it's an amazing feeling and it's an amazing thing to watch. These are memories that we're going to have forever."
Coach Nolte is vocal throughout the game, with praise, instruction or simply telling a player, to be better, play as you know how.
"It's fun, but sometimes when he's yelling at you in the moment, it's a bit angry," laughs Bella. "But in the end, all he's saying, is to help and you just have to listen and stay calm."
Remaining relaxed late in the gold medal match was a challenge, with Dorchester minutes away from victory, but Smithville pressing to send the game in to overtime.
"Very stressful," said Bella. "Sometimes I thought they were going to tie, but we kept kicking it out and clearing it. We had so many chances, but I'm glad we were able to finish it with a win."
The thought of being a champion was already in the minds of the players, when the referee announced one minute of extra time.
"I was trying not to get ahead of myself, but in the back of mind, I was, oh my gosh, we have just won OFSAA. It is incredible. I was thrilled," Annika said. "We put our heads down, we played for that last minute and then he blew the whistle. I started crying. All the tears flowing. I was filled with emotion. It was brilliant."
In her final high school game, Annika leaves an OFSAA champion, shared with her sister and father.
"It's fun to play with her. She's a very skilled player," Annika said. "Having her here and my dad as the coach is amazing."
Annika now heads to Nipissing University this fall.
Also graduating this year is Zavitz, Grace McLean, Darian Linton, Courtney Gostis, Madie Benjamin and Leah Hunt.
Glengarry, out of Alexandria, won the bronze medal, defeating Mackenzie Community school, from Deep River.
Smithville Christian upended top seeded Glengarry, 3-1, in their semifinal.
Annika Nolte with two goals and Bella Nolte scored, in Dorchester's 3-0 semifinal win against MacKenzie.
Third OFSAA team title
This is the third OFSAA championship in team sports for Lord Dorchester.
In 1989, the girls' volleyball team, coached by Bruce Dalke won gold. Girls volleyball won gold again, in 2002, with Don Robinson and his son, Chris, coaching.
Dorchester athletes have won several OFSAA gold medals in individual sports, such as track and field.
The OFSAA gold is the school's first since the open women's 4x400-metre relay team won in 2016, with Megan Dunn, Dana Earhart and the Beaudry sisters, Megan and Katie. That same year, Madie Wilson-Walker, won both the women's ambulatory 100-metre dash and 800-metre run.
Two years earlier at OFSAA, Dunn and the Beaudrys, with Morgan Hendriks, won 4x4 gold.
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