Long road to gold

This championship was five years in the making.

Last Sunday in South Surrey, the Under-18 Timberwolves from the Prince George Youth Soccer Association kicked their way to a B.C. banner in the girls Provincial B Cup tournament. In the final game, the Timberwolves defeated the Nelson Selects 2-0.

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Prince George head coach Mario Mastroianni has worked with the core group of T-wolves for five seasons and the team has three provincial medals - silver in 2015, bronze in 2016 and now gold.

"They were just screaming and yelling," Mastroianni said of his players' reaction to claiming the B.C. title. "It's a big accomplishment. You've got to remember some of these girls aren't going to go on to play soccer at any higher level. They'll play women's league, some will go on to university, which obviously is the next level. But for some, this is going to be the highlight of their soccer career."

In the golden game, the Timberwolves controlled the play but didn't break through for their first goal until about the 55th minute when Kassidy Dreher ripped a shot past the Nelson goalkeeper from 10 yards out. Later, in the 78th minute, the T-wolves got an insurance marker on a play that started with a corner kick and ended with a crossbar-and-in shot by fullback Kierstin Vohar.

"We've been working on set plays on corner kicks and everybody did their job, (got) in position," Mastroianni said. "(Vohar) was activated, knew where she needed to be."

At the other end of the field, keeper Vanessa Hallson - playing her final game of youth soccer - earned the shutout.

On the road to the championship game, the Timberwolves started with a 3-1 win against Kelowna United and then fell 3-2 to Pinnacles FC of Penticton. In their last match of pool play, the T-wolves needed to win by three to secure a spot in the final and were up 3-0 on the Comox Valley Blaze until Comox scored with eight minutes to play. The Timberwolves players - not actually knowing a three-goal differential would put them in the final - responded with a goal by Fayre Layton and then Hallson made a massive save to preserve the necessary differential.

"They (the Blaze) had a shot with literally one minute left in the game, a Hail Mary shot, and it's going for the far corner," Mastroianni said. "And Vanessa... she is a bit forward and doesn't realize this is going over her head so she has to make an unbelievable save for it to not go in."

In the team huddle at the end of the game, Mastroianni informed his troops they would be going for gold the next day.

"They thought they'd be playing for a bronze medal," he said. "(Hallson) looks at me and goes, 'Oh, I almost didn't want to go for (the save) because I knew we were just playing for bronze tomorrow.'

"I almost lost my mind," Mastroianni added with a chuckle. "She (Hallson) is very laid back."

The gold medal is the first for a local girls team at the Provincial B Cup since 2005 when a P.G. club claimed a championship in the U-16 division.

Graduating members of the Timberwolves are Vohar, Hallson, Alecia Ferreira, Whitney Anderson, Kate Arnold, Hannah Emmond, Emily Haley, Marlo Wilson and Nicole Watt. The team also features Kaitlin Earl, Samantha Sameit, Anisha Panaich, Sydney Bartlett, Mikeila Oliveira, Simona Mastroianni and Jazmine Martin. Coach Mastroianni's staff is rounded out by John Ribeiro, Carla Terroso and Lorrie Bartlett.

Vohar, Anderson and Emmond will suit up for the UNBC women's soccer team this coming Canada West season.

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