PANORAMA RIDGE – It was a tough loss at the Fraser Valley Senior Girls soccer tournament, but the Panorama Ridge Thunder have already found the silver lining as they prepare for provincials.
Prior to last Thursday (May 14), the AAA team had declawed the Tamanawis Wildcats, tore down Heritage Woods and extinguished last year’s provincial champions, Fleetwood Park Dragons, with a 2-1 victory. They led the rankings heading into the final against Elgin Park Orcas, but some missed opportunities and a red card caused them to lose 3-1, despite a hard-fought revival in the last 40 minutes.
"I think some nerves and a bit of lack of communication hurt us at the beginning," said co-coach Kenneth Headley, "but the girls won the second half, they battled pretty hard."
"We had a slow start," said Grade 11 co-captain Harroop Malli, "but in the second half, we were dominating them with a man down."
Going into the tournament, Malli said the team wasn’t expecting to make it to the final – just being there, among the top teams in the Lower Mainland, was exciting enough. But their focus and determination took them further than they thought, and made them the team to beat.
"The Fraser Valleys are always kind of a dogfight – you’re playing some of the best teams in the province," said co-coach Derek Duke. "You have to bring it. Otherwise, you’re going to be in trouble."
The team’s main goal at the beginning of the season was just to make it to provincials, added Headley. "Getting to the Fraser Valley final was just gravy on top of potatoes," she said.
Elgin Park may have stolen Panorama Ridge’s thunder, but they’re relentlessly driven to get it back. The team’s undying spirit and rally-the-troops attitude proved they’re hungry for the provincial championship – and if there’s anything positive to come out of the tournament loss, it’s that they’re more grounded than ever heading into the B.C.’s. "This last game really kind of woke us up and made us want to want it a lot more," said cocaptain Gurnoor Hajra, a Grade 12 student.
"I think going into provincials, we’ll be a lot stronger and we’ll be able to build as a team and grow as a team. We all have to work together and put more effort in because it’s not going to be easy winning that banner."
The provincials run from May 28 to 30, and from the coaches’ perspectives, the girls have a great shot to take the banner – especially after just missing the podium last year. They just need to make the right changes on the field and take things game by game.
"Last year, we weren’t ranked highly to do anything and we ended up finishing fourth because of their work ethic and their strength," said Headley. "They’ve been here before and we’re kind of right where we want to be."
"With provincials – five game, three days – you can’t be just thinking about all those games," said Duke. "You have to approach one game, go serious at that, and then kind of reset our mentality for the next.
"If we can just zone in one game at a time – win, loss or tie – we should be successful."
The girls recognize that their success in 2014 was a team effort, and while they each shine individually, they know it’s going to take that same teamwork to break into the top three.
"We work well as a team, so we need to go out there and play for each other and play our hardest," said Malli.
"It’s five games. It’s tiring and it’s hard, but you have to go out there and leave everything on the field in order to win that banner – and that’s what we’re going there to do."