It was Team Dunlap over Team Van Der Heide as two Lacombe Panthers teams battled it out for U13 Tier IV Central Alberta Soccer Association (CASA) supremacy.
Team Dunlap defeated their opponents 1-0 in the gold medal game at Michener Park last Wednesday, ending their season on the highest of notes.
Head Coach Chris Dunlap said it was an exciting but tense game.
“It was really tight between both teams,” he said. “This is the third time we’ve played them, and the closest game we’ve head, but it was the nicest thing to see both Lacombe teams actually battle it out for gold and silver.”
In the semifinals, Dunlap’s team defeated Camrose’s Culham team 4-1, while the silver medallist Van Der Heide team defeated Camrose’s Gendreau 4-3 to face their inter-city counterparts.
The lone goal in the final came from Parker Aldrich, Dunlap’s nephew.
“He had a really nice shot on a corner kick,” he said. “He kicked it from the corner and it curled around everyone – completely untouched. It was pretty impressive.”
While his team was ahead, the game wasn’t short of heart-stopping moments for both teams. With about 15 minutes left, Van Der Heide had the opportunity to tie the game on a penalty shot. Jack Roberts made the shot, but keeper Josh Johnson made the save, deflecting the ball to the post, to keep the team ahead and ultimately take the win.
“It really pumped our boys up for sure,” Dunlap said. “It pumped the coaches up, too – I probably jumped about three feet off the ground when he made that save.”
The gold medal win capped off what was an undefeated season for the team. They had a 12-0-0 record during the regular season, with two more wins in the post-season. Their only heartbreaker was in the provincial qualifying tournament, where they fell in a shootout after a 0-0 game to Ponoka.
The secret to the team’s success, according to Dunlap, however, wasn’t their offence.
“We were really strong defensively,” he said, noting that aside from one game where they had an inexperienced goalie in net, they never allowed more than two goals in a game. “That allowed us to come out with a win during a lot of close games during the year.”
Team Van Der Heide, meanwhile, earned silver and finished third overall in the regular season with a 10-2 record.
In the regular season, Bentley finished with a 4-6-2 record, while Blackfalds finished second-last with a 1-10-0 record.
While the soccer season has come to an end for some, a few will be headed to Grande Prairie July 19-22 for the 2018 Alberta Summer Games.
Parker Aldrich and Josh Johnson of the gold medal-winning U13 Lacombe Panthers will represent Team Central Alberta.
Dunlap described Aldrich as being a player of pure skill.
“He’s really fast, he’s skilled with the ball and got a really nice shot,” he said. “Lucky for me, he likes to stay back and play a lot of defence which helps out.”
Johnson, meanwhile, was described as being more of a player of heart.
“He’s maybe a little less skilled than Parker, but he’s all heart and hussle,” he said. “That save he made (in the gold medal game) is typical of where he’s at. He wants it more than anybody else. He runs faster, he runs harder and plays with a lot of energy.”
Lacombe’s Mariika Meadus, who’s also part of the Lacombe Figure Skating Club, will also represent the city as part of the girls team.