Surrey United closes in on eleventh heaven

Surrey United is one win away from 11th heaven following a 4-3 win over Victoria’s Peninsula Co-op Highlanders in the semifinal round of the women’s Provincial Cup tournament at Cloverdale Athletic Park Sunday.

The 10-time Provincial Cup champs will compete for their 11th consecutive B.C. crown against the North Shore Renegades in the season finale on Mother’s Day, May 11 in Burnaby.

Sunday’s semifinal clash in the pouring rain in Cloverdale against the Highlanders almost turned into a soggy nightmare for Surrey. Leading 4-1 late in the second half, Surrey coughed up two a pair of ugly late goals before holding on for the 4-3 win.

“The score shouldn’t have been anywhere near that close,” said Surrey coach Albert Stewart. “It should have been over when we got up 4-1. At that point the girls should have played more of a possession game, but unfortunately we had a brain meltdown at the end and allowed them to get close. We gave up two easy goals at the end and suddenly it’s a one-goal game.”

Surrey seized control right from the opening whistle and carried the play throughout most of the first half. Their efforts were rewarded in the 31st minute Katie Thorlakson set up Nicole Stewart for her first of two goals on the day. Stewart collected Thorlakson’s pass and then muscled her way through two defenders before beating the Peninsula goalkeeper on the short side.

Nine minutes later the defending champions doubled their lead when Rachel Pelat converted a crossing pass from Stewart to make the count 2-0. In the dying seconds of the opening half, Peninsula scored against the run of play to cut the Surrey lead to one goal.

Any momentum that late marker might have generated for the visitors was quickly squashed as Surrey once controlled the play once the second half began.

Surrey restored their two-goal advantage in the 53rd minute when a Thorlakson pass sent Stewart in alone on a breakaway. Stewart did not squander the opportunity, converting the chance by chipping the ball over the Peninsula keeper for a 3-1 Surrey lead.

In the 70th minute Thorlakson was at it again, creating chaos in the Peninsula goalmouth where she was run over by a defender.

On the ensuing penalty kick, Thorlakson hammered a low shot to goalkeeper’s right to give United a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 edge.

Surrey began playing more passive at that point and it almost cost them. In the 88th minute a Peninsula striker was left unmarked in the Surrey goal area for an easy tap in.

Three minutes later in bonus time, a squibbled Peninsula shot eluded Surrey goalkeeper Theresa Nuttall and suddenly United was hanging on to a narrow onegoal lead.

Surrey took over possession after that, keeping the ball wide and booting it deep whenever possible to eat up the final three minutes of bonus time.

Elsewhere, a potential all-Surrey Provincial Cup final evaporated when Coastal FC was blanked 2-0 by the North Shore Renegades amid a deluge of rain at Newton Athletic Park Friday night.

Albert Stewart said the match-up against the Renegades in the Cup final promises to be difficult for Surrey.

“That’s going to be a real battle; it should be the toughest game we’ll play in the Provincial Cup this year,” he said. “It’s the last game of the year and we know they’ll be gunning for us hard. Both teams have beaten each other this year – we know what to expect and they know what to expect. It should be a really good game.”