Forty-eight hours after helping lead her team to the CIS women’s soccer national championship on Nov. 11, tournament MVP (Most Valuable Player) Jennifer Castillo was still hoarse.
“I will let you know when I feel it,” the Surrey native said when asked how it felt to help the Trinity Western Spartans capture their third Gladys Bean Memorial Trophy in the past five years, and fourth overall in the program’s history.
“I do feel it a little bit more now,” she said two days after returning from Victoria. “But the day of, it just felt surreal.
“I don’t think I have soaked it in. I am just so exhausted and so sore.”
The Spartans were in the gold medal match in Victoria, playing against the Queen’s Gaels. Together the two soccer powerhouses had combined to win the past four CIS titles, with Trinity Western winning in 2008 and 2009 while Queen’s won in 2010 and 2011.
And the teams played 120 minutes of scoreless soccer in Sunday’s final, setting up penalty kicks to determine the national champion.
Both teams made their first two kicks, with Stephanie Chin and Alessandra Oliverio making the Spartans shots, but the third Queen’s shooter drilled her shot off the crossbar. Natalie Boyd, a Sullivan Heights Secondary graduate, put Trinity Western University (TWU) ahead 3-2 and then Spartans keeper Kristen Funk dove to her left and came up with a save. With the chance to win the game, captain Colleen Webber made no mistake, burying the winner — just like she did as a freshman three years ago when Trinity Western last won the title.
“Fight, heart, everything past physicality because our bodies were just so dead,” said Castillo of the effort needed to win. “I think it needed more of our minds and hearts to be put into it because we were so tired by that point.”
The players did not want the game decided by penalty kicks — Castillo admitted she was crying as she walked to the centre of the pitch — but the team was confident.
“We had great confidence in the girls that had been preparing and Funk is Funk and we all know what she can do in penalties,” coach Graham Roxburgh said.
In the quarter-finals, the Spartans defeated the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 2-1 on goals from Jessica King and Castillo. They knocked off the host Victoria Vikes 1-0 in the semifinals with Boyd scoring the only goal.
Castillo and Boyd were just two of eight local players on the TWU roster. Castillo, Boyd and Enver Creek Secondary graduate Tessa Meyer played in all 20 games for the Spartans, with Castillo and Boyd netting five goals each and Meyer notching three.
Nikki Byrne of the Surrey United club scored three goals in 13 games, while North Delta’s Jenna Di Nunzio tallied seven times in 11 games.
Vanessa Kovacs, also of North Delta, was on the field for 15 games – including all three at nationals, and scored one goal. Caitlin Haines and Vannessa Weibe, both from Fraser Valley (now Surrey) Christian high school, appeared in seven and six games respective.
Boyd, a midfielder, was named a second-team All-Canadian in Victoria.
The Spartans finished sixth at last year’s nationals after a dominating regular season.
“Anytime you have a team that is capable of winning and doesn’t and falls at a hurdle … it just adds that extra focus, that extra concentration to say ‘we are not going to let this happen again,’ ” Roxburgh said.
The coach also added that win or lose, he wanted his team to know they were part of something special.
“It is more than just soccer,” Roxburgh said. “Winning is obviously a great joy, an accomplishment. But I reminded the girls, winning or losing in the final wasn’t going to take away from what we have created.
“Winning would just be the cherry on top.”
As for the MVP award, Castillo said she was overwhelmed to win the award.
“I didn’t expect it, I was shocked but obviously was very honoured,” the third-year defender said. “It is amazing to get it (but) it is a team award. I know I wouldn’t have gotten it without my teammates.”
Roxburgh said Castillo has the capacity to be one of the best players in the country thanks largely to her great athleticism and confidence on the ball.
“She is so smooth in possession and yet she is such a warrior on the back,” he said. “She wins timely tackles, she gets up headers, she has scored crucial goals on set pieces. Her contribution is invaluable.”
“She was a standout player in the tournament like she has been all year.”