Two goals in the final 10 minutes helped the DW Poppy Redhawks soar to a Fraser Valley banner.
Locked in a scoreless tie for much of the Fraser Valley AA senior girls championship game against the Langley Fundamental Titans, Poppy coach Mark Donkers stressed for his players to remain patient.
“We told the girls to play smart defensively — and we had some help with posts — and we said if we played the game we needed to play, it was going to come and we just needed one minute of brilliance from our forward and that is what we got from her,” he said following the game.
The game was played on Wednesday (May 17) afternoon at Willoughby Community Park.
And that ‘one minute of brilliance’ came from Grade 9 forward Amy Connorton.
Connorton struck for the decisive goal with about 10 minutes to play. She would later add an insurance marker.
“The ball came in and all we needed was one lucky break,” she said. “I took the chance, saw the net and went for goal,” she said.
The two teams had played once before, a 2-2 draw in early April in the first game of the season.
Both squads went 3-1-1 and were tied for second place in the Fraser Valley West Zone.
The Titans earned the second seed over Poppy based on allowing four goals over their five games, compared to the Redhawks’ eight.
As the third seed out of their division, Poppy had to play a crossover game to make the main draw, defeating St. John Brebeuf 4-0.
That gave the Redhawks the No. 7 seed and they defeated the No. 2 Archbishop Carney Stars 3-1 in the quarter-finals and then the No. 6 Abbotsford Traditional Titans 2-1 in the semifinals.
With a top three finish at the Fraser Valleys, Poppy was guaranteed a spot at the provincial championships in Nelson later this month.
“Honestly, we just wanted to advance to provincials,” Connorton said about the team’s goal at the start of the season. “Everyone just worked so hard and to get here, it really is truly amazing.”
“When we started the year, we thought we could (do this),” added Donkers, who coaches the team with Nick Chabara.
“Our regular season wasn’t quite what we wanted it to be but we came together at the right time and we got the job done when we needed to. We are really proud of these girls.”
The fact Poppy has a strong team should come as little surprise as the Redhawks won the Fraser Valley junior girls title last season. And this year’s squad features seven Grade 12s and then a mix of the other four grades among their 21 players.
“We really are a true school team,” Donkers said.
The Titans were done in by a lack of goal scoring.
The team, seeded fifth for the Fraser Valleys, defeated No. 4 Holy Cross and No. 1 Burnsview despite not scoring in either game, winning both times 1-0 in penalty kicks.
And not being able to score caught up to the Titans.
“We just needed to finish,” said Fundamental coach Tamera Shearon.
“We let down for a second there (and they capitalized),” she said about Poppy’s game-winning goal.
Fielding a senior girls team was a last-minute decision so despite the sting of the loss, Shearon was pleasantly surprised by her team’s performance.
The Titans have just one Grade 12 and three Grade 11s on the roster and the coach said they were simply hoping to qualify for the Fraser Valley crossover game.
“It is pretty amazing at the young age we have that they can compete,” she said. “I was actually pretty worried they would just get pushed off the ball and not be able to compete.”
This is the first time the school has qualified for senior girls soccer provincials.
Both teams now prepare for the provincial championships, which run June 1 to 3 in Nelson.