By Rob J. Ross
Thursday, May 25, 2017
TILLSONBURG, Ont. - Halle Szabo made the most of a break for the Parkside Stampeders.
The grade nine forward jumped on a ball that escaped the hands of the London St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) Flames' goalie and deposited it into the net, for a 2-1 Parkside win, in the Western Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association (WOSSAA) AA girls' soccer final, at the Tillsonburg Minor Soccer Park.
"I didn't think she was going to fumble it. I just ran in for a rebound. Then she did and I just kicked it in to the net," Szabo said. "It's crazy."
Parkside, the reigning OFSAA champions, return to the provincial high school championship for a fourth consecutive year.
"STA put us on our feet a couple times. It could have gone either way. STA is good team. It was a great battle," Parkside co-captain Paisley McGugan said. "We were slow at the beginning of the first half but our coach (Gerry Safadi) had a great pep talk at half and he said, we have to turn, get it to the outside and follow to the net. That's what we did and how we got up."
There weren't too many scoring opportunities during the rain soaked game.
Parkside opened the scoring in the first half, on a Jaylin Wismer free kick. STA tied the game on a free kick of their own. STA hit the post in the second half, before Szabo was alert on a ball to the STA keeper.
"She made the best run. It was amazing," described McGugan, who is heading to her fourth OFSAA. "It really hit home for the seniors. For her (Szabo) to score for us, it's really good. She was where she was supposed to be at the right time."
Parkside overcame the lost of co-captain Katy Ellery, who left the game after the first half with a knee injury and fatigue from a tight semi-final game a few hours earlier.
Parkside squeezed by London South, 2-1 (4-3), on penalty kicks. Braelyn Dennis scored for Parkside during regulation play that ended tied at one.
"We were tired going into that game (final). We had some injuries coming in and then losing Ellery at half-time hurt a lot," Safadi said. "The girls played fantastic defence and we blocked a lot of shots. We limited their shots. Most of their shots were from a distance."
Several Stampeders have experience from their previous trips to OFSAA, but the hero of the WOSSAA gold game is not sure what to expect.
"I don't have any clue. I'll see when we get there," Szabo said.
OFSAA AA is June 1-3, in North Bay.
South beat Stratford St. Mike's, 2-1,
for the WOSSAA bronze medal.