Sarnia Spirit girls’ U15 team made it to the Ontario Cup final

The Sarnia Spirit U15 team at the Ontario Cup, from left, back row: Paul Ritchie, Aliyah Greaves, Lindsey Barwitzki, Mckenna Gardner, Avrie Edgar, Lauren Murray, Erin Murray, Mackenzie Hocking, Sarah Sanders, Hannah Thompson, Sarah Houle and Trevor Gardner; front row: Rob Boire, Nancy Barwitzki, Neleya Clarke, Annie Graham, Olivia DiCocco, Mya Ritchie, McKenna Jackson, Kala Wagg, Jadyn Clark and Erica D’Andrea. Submitted Photo

Troy Shantz

Sarnia’s U15 girls’ soccer team won a silver medal at the recent Ontario Cup Championship.

The Spirit finished second after knocking off 2016 champion Waterloo and runner-up Oakville. They fell to Kitchener 5-0 in the final on Sept. 9.

The team has much to be proud of, said head coach Trevor Gardner.

“The girls worked hard, they worked hard to the end. It was a good experience.”

The Spirit, having compiled a 10-0-4 regular season records, headed into the Ontario Cup Championship game in Vaughan against league rival Kitchener with confidence.

Sarnia was down 1-0 at the half and still believed the game was within reach, having done well against Kitchener in two previous games this year in the Western Ontario Youth Soccer League.

In league play, which is separate from the tournament, Sarnia had defeated Kitchener 3-0 and tied 3-3.

But a rash of mistakes saw Kitchener take control, and an unsuccessful breakaway by Kala Wagg with 25 minutes left was all the Spirit could muster.

“The other team, they were on and we were off,” said Gardner.

“They got a couple of lucky breaks and we didn’t finish our breaks.”

Sarnia had two injuries and a case of the flu, but nerves were the team’s biggest enemy, the coach said.

“It doesn’t represent how competitive we are.”

Despite the loss at provincials, the girls’ season isn’t over. Sarnia and Kitchener wound up tied for first at the end of the regular season in league play, and the winner of the league title will by determined by a tiebreaker played on Sept. 26.

In just it’s second year in the league, Sarnia is already a force to be reckoned with, giving up just 11 goals in league play.

“We were the only team that was undefeated, Gardner said.

A new training strategy has been implemented, with skill development starting for girls age 10 to 12.

The Ontario Cup contained an important lesson, Gardner added.

“They knew what it meant to win, and they know what it means to lose,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll be back there next year and this experience will allows us to overcome our nerves.”