Shootout sends soccer team to provincials

To be the best, you've got to beat the best.

The PGYSA Under-18 Timberwolves girls were up to the challenge when they tackled the host Kamloops Blaze in youth soccer's Interior A Cup qualifier on the weekend.

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With the series tied 1-1, the Timberwolves prevailed and won the Interior Cup title in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout with five consecutive goal-scoring kicks. With the win, they qualified for the B.C. Soccer A Cup provincial championship in Surrey, July 9-12.

The Blaze went into the zone qualifier as the defending B.C. U16 A Cup champion and is a team Prince George always faces in the Interior playdown.

"We're very pumped to beat them," said Timberwolves head coach Jo Wankling. "This group of girls is always challenging for the A Cup, they train year-round. I'm very proud of the girls and their determination to come back after a 3-1 loss. Kamloops is very strong."

The Blaze opened the series Saturday with a 3-1 win in a match where a storm rolled in at half-time and Prince George wound up playing into the wind.

The Timberwolves rebounded nicely on Sunday, earning a clean sheet with a 2-0 victory on goals from Julia Munk on a free kick and Maddie Doucette. Goalkeeper Kenzie Lamothe got the shutout.

Since the series was based on an aggregate score of goals for and against, the series was tied 1-1, which sent it into a best-of-five penalty shootout to determine the winner.

One by one, Munk, Cassidy Stella, Sam Wankling, Morgan Norm and Hannah Emmond stepped up and scored to edge the Blaze 5-3.

"On Saturday I knew our team had technically better players and on Sunday we outplayed them," said coach Wankling. "(The penalty kicks) were all hard shots into the corner."

The Timberwolves, comprised of two Grade 12 players, 12 Grade 11s and one Grade 10 (Emmond), have 11 athletes who train year-round with the Whitecaps Northern Academy.

"Eight of these Whitecaps players have been designated as High Performance players for all Whitecaps FC regional academies," said Wankling. "Emmond is a starting midfield player and she is extremely strong for her age."

The Timberwolves play women's and boys teams during their season to get quality matches in and they also travel a lot. Prior to the Interior playdown, they competed in an adult icebreaker in Kamloops.

This weekend, they're traveling eight hours east to Edmonton for the Tier 1 Mac Power Play Cup, a showcase tournament where they'll try to get noticed by college and university teams.

"They're a very dedicated group and dedicated to improving technically," said Wankling. "Most of the players want to play college or university soccer."

Doucette, who just graduated from College Heights secondary, will suit up as a freshman this fall for her hometown UNBC Timberwolves.

At the A Cup provincials, Prince George will tackle two Lower Mainlaind sides and one from Vancouver Island.

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