CORNER BROOK Guess again, Chris de Burgh — the ladies in blue were the ones shining bright on Wednesday night.
On the strength of an Erin O’Farrell goal in the 70th minute, the Island Orthotics Curling Rangers defeated the West Coast Physio Under-18s 1-0 at the Wellington Street Sports Complex to win their third Corner Brook Women’s Soccer League championship in the last five years.
O’Farrell’s goal, which was set up by some hard hustle on the wing by teammate Melissa Kean, broke a scoreless tie and left the Under-18s in a frenzy during the late going. The younger girls, who led the league during the regular season from start to finish, nearly evened the game with a chance in close late, but Rangers goalkeeper Julie Gordon made a huge save through traffic to keep the goose egg intact.
“I saw a small window and went low corner off my left foot,” said O’Farrell of the season-ending strike.
The pressure for both teams was mounting in the winner-take-all atmosphere, as neither club wanted to make the crucial mistake, but neither really sat back either.
“We wanted to score first,” O’Farrell said. “We knew if they got the first goal, it could have easily, easily went the other way.”
A big reason they didn’t was the play of Gordon, who stepped in between the pipes in place of the injured Ashley Preston late in the season and never looked back. Preston was named the league’s top goalie after the championship game, so Gordon clearly had big shoes to fill, but she did so admirably.
“Big props to her,” O’Farrell said of her goalie. “She was amazing — again.”
The Rangers never had much luck against the Under-18s all season, but won the last three times they played them, including two playoff encounters. The first post-season meeting lifted the Rangers into the final, while the Under-18s had to then defeat Physical Rehab to get a crack at redemption.
It just never worked out that way for them.
“I think we were just a little more motivated,” said O’Farrell of her team’s turn of fortune against the top-seeded team. “It was just an ‘enough is enough’ type of thing. We kept the pressure on them and it worked.”
That’s not to say O’Farrell and her teammates weren’t impressed with their opponents. How could they not be?
“They’re a great team, they’re going to be awesome again next year,” she said. “They have great ball control, great fitness ... they were just super all year.”
It was the second heartbreak this month for the Under-18s, who came up a little short in a best-of-three provincial championship showdown against Mount Pearl two weeks ago.
“We’re still happy, we all tried our hardest,” said Heather Carey. “It was a really good year.”
Carey had no problem admitting her team was ‘very confident’ going in, but a lack of offence sealed their fate. They never had much trouble scoring in the regular season, but the goals seemed to dry up once the playoffs began.
“I think we came out and did our best and everything, but we just couldn’t pull through,” she said. “Both teams are really close and it was another really intense game.”
This was Carey’s last year of eligibility for the Under-18 team, but she still plans on being back in the league next summer.
“I’m hoping to play on one of the ladies teams,” she said, before laughing at a suggestion she might try for a spot on the Rangers.
“Maybe ... that might be a good idea.”