Sarnia soccer defenders aim for national title

Posing with the Ontario Cup are, from left, Pauline Tsaprailis, Lisa Gartley, Heather Ireland, Lisa Karsay and Tonia Nisbet. Submitted Photo

Dave Paul

They say defence wins championships.

With that in mind, a quintet of city women proved outstanding in leading their team to a provincial championship last month.

The five Sarnians play for London Marconi Azzuri, which captured the Ontario Cup Women’s Masters (30-plus) soccer title.

Pauline Tsaprailis, Lisa Gartley, Lisa Karsay and Tonia Nisbet are the team’s starting four defenders while Heather Ireland is the starting goalkeeper.

And it was a standout defensive effort that carried them to the championship as they won a pair of 1-0 games, beating North Toronto Elites and Ottawa City Royals, to claim the title.

Ireland recorded the shutout in both victories, while Karsay scored the game-winning goal against North Toronto on a free kick.

It marks back-to-back years the London team captured the provincial championship. Next up, they will do battle against Canada’s other provincial titlists in the national championships in Winnipeg, Sept. 23-25.

Lisa Gartley was one of three Sarnia players (along with Lisa Karsay and Pauline Tsaprailis) who played on last year’s team, at the Canadian championship tournament in Vancouver.

“It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing last year,” said Gartley. “Now that we’re going again, well, twice in a lifetime is even better.”

Gartley is a teacher at Wallaceburg District Secondary School who also coaches soccer. She hopes she’s showing younger athletes they can continue to play competitive sports long past their teen years.

“I’m striving to be a positive role model for lifelong physical activity,” said Gartley. “I’d like to think that is encapsulated in these results.”

Representing Ontario, the London team finished fourth at last year’s tournament.

Gartley said the result was disappointing, but also a bit misleading.

“We lost in penalty kicks in the bronze medal game,” she says. “We also lost the game before that (that forced them into the bronze medal game instead of the gold medal game) on penalty kicks.

“The competition is so tight … it’s an intense level of soccer,” she says.

“But we know what to expect and we’ve definitely got our sights set on gold this time.”