Dorchester's youthful team overcomes pre-tournament controversy to
place a best ever fourth at the provincial girls' soccer championship
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
STONEY CREEK, ON. - Whether it was an unexpected challenge, a team building on a successful season of a year ago, or a combination, the Lord Dorchester Beavers have their first OFSAA medal in girls' soccer.
Dorchester finished fourth, capturing the antique bronze, at the OFSAA 1A tournament, at Heritage Green Sports Park, Saturday in Stoney Creek, the best result for the girls' team at the high school provincial tournament.
The Beavers were edged 2-1, by Ottawa Louis Riel, in the bronze medal match, after falling to Cornwall La Citadelle, the eventual gold medalist, 2-1, in the semifinals, on penalty kicks.
"They played amazing. They played so good," Dorchester coach Richard Cracknell said, following the bronze medal match on Saturday.
"It was an amazing tournament for the girls. They all did extremely well. I could point to every girl and say that play you made, made a difference to get us there. Every girl did something."
It is a step further than a year ago when the Beavers lost in the quarterfinals and team could have been playing for this year's OFSAA title.
"You don't know how close we were to the gold medal game," said Cracknell. "We were within inches of the gold medal game. (On a LDSS kick), the goalie got her hand on it (ball) and it hit the post."
Annika Nolte gave Dorchester a 1-0 lead, before La Citadelle tied the affair.
"I'll remember this for a long time because it's my first year and it's probably the biggest achievement I've got so far in my soccer career," said Nolte. "Knowing that LDSS had never won a medal at OFSAA before for girls' soccer and to be on the team to be the first, is really cool."
In the bronze game, Louis Riel potted the winner with four minutes left in regulation time. Sarah Smith had the lone Beavers' goal.
Making to the final four was itself an achievement, after a pair of ties on day one left Dorchester facing two must wins on day two, including against defending champion Breslau Woodland Christian.
"We had cancelled our rooms. What we had in front of us to make the final four was the most daunting task. We didn't really think it was possible," Cracknell said.
There was also overcoming the controversy surrounding the Beavers heading into the 16 team tournament. Five graduating players, including top scorer Hannah Vickers, were left on the OFSAA roster, directed by the school, because they chose to attend their prom instead of the OFSAA banquet.
Attendance, although there is never a head count, at the banquet is mandatory, or a team could face sanctions under OFSAA guidelines. These sanctions are usually reserved for poor player behaviour or cheating, not missing a dinner (No sanctions for missed OFSAA games). The Dorchester players affected offered alternate solutions, but the school stayed the course, attend the banquet or don't play.
The situation forced younger players, such as Nolte, only in Grade nine, to step up in to roles they may not have previously played. The Beavers had only three seniors, sweeper Victoria Quance, Maddie O'Brien and goalie Julie Piper.
"The team definitely knew it would be more of a challenge," Quance said. "The younger girls did a really good job of hyping everybody up before (saying) lets not lose hope, let's show them what we got. There was a lot of positivity going around. It gave them a chance to shine and they ended up scoring some huge goals."
Dorchester surprised themselves defeating Woodland Christian, the 2018 gold medalist, 2-1, followed by a 4-0 shutout of Timiskaming, to finish second in their pool, with a record of two wins and two ties.
Ashley Legg, on a free kick, and Sarah Smith scored against Woodland. Claudia Zavitz with two goals, Avery Dance and Nolte did the damage against Timiskaming.
"We were estactic (defeating Woodland)," said Cracknell. "It took us until second half to score against Timiskaming, then that just opened up the gate."
Adds Quance, "After winning those two Friday games, we were really excited. Beating (Woodland) gave us a lot of hope and a lot of energy. Everybody wanted to win a medal so bad."
That set up a quarterfinal against Tecumseh Lajeunesse, a scoreless match that went all the way to penalty kicks.
"That was something else," said Cracknell, who along with coach Stephanie Young, picked Dorchester's five kickers, but let the players decide their order. The Beaver won 1-0.
"They are got amazing playing time and faced the pressure of one goal games. Their confidence grew."
Following the win, the team realized they had no where to sleep, other than on their bus.
"When the quarterfinals was over it was 630 and I was calling trying to get our rooms back," said Cracknell. "We were able to get back in to our rooms (at a college residence)."
Quance who helped the London Devilettes win both the OWHA and PJHL provincial championships, just a few months ago, had her career moment in sports with the soccer team.
"The quarterfinal win was honestly the happiest moment of my life," Quance said. "Even after winning provincials and final four in hockey, that win blew that (hockey) out of the water because of all of the emotion leading up to OFSAA and all the battles that we had to overcome. I never cried that much out of happiness before. It was amazing."
Quance, who had been to OFSAA three times previously, two for pole vault and one with Dorchester's 2016 senior girls' basketball team, desired a medal.
"I'd been looking forward to OFSAA all year. I knew we had a good chance of making it there," said Quance. "Since watching the Beaudrys (Megan and Kate) and Megan Dunn, in the relay, (two gold and a silver medal, open women's 4x400-metre race) I knew I needed a medal before I graduate. This was my final chance and that's what I was fighting so hard to be able to play.
"I would have never would have missed OFSAA for anything."
Attending the banquet allowed Quance to play. At the same time she respected her fellow graduating seniors, including Vickers, her best friend, to make the choice of attending prom.
"Everybody has a right to their own decision," said Quance.
Nolte admits nervousness entering the tournament on how well the team would perform, but the players believed in themselves.
"At first, I didn't expect us to get as far as we did. I was happy and surprised that I got that far, but I knew our team could come together," Nolte said. "Not pressure, just fun to play. With all the girls, everyone was supporting everyone."
Quance felt the players wanted to show they could succeed despite the circumstances.
"I'm so proud of all the younger girls," said Quance. "They really stepped up and our team became so close. This will be a memory for the rest of our lives."
More could be on the way for players returning next season.
"The future for girls' soccer is incredible," Cracknell said. "Those girls are amazing. You see them bond and how they communicate. They're going to have one heck of a team next year. Even the other teams couldn't believe more than half our bench was Grade nine and 10s. They were stunned. One of the coaches said, we may as well just roll over for the next two years."
The soccer team provided a memorable gift for Cracknell, who is retiring from high school teaching this month and after 27 years of coaching. His career also includes guiding Dorchester's girls' hockey team to WOSSAA A/AA silver, in March.
"I was asked by staff, what do I want for my retirement? I said there's nothing. I asked them to make a donation to relay for life," Cracknell said. "The only thing I said that anyone in the school can get me, is an OFSAA medal."
An emotional Cracknell, "Those girls got it for me today."