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Giant-killer Totems off to provincials

Aldergrove Secondary school (ACSS) Totems senior boys’ soccer team captured a berth at the provincial championships
Aldergrove Secondary's Jimmy Zong (in air) took the Aldergrove Totems into the provincials with the deciding semi-final shootout goal against Delta's Burnsview side on Nov. 5.

The Aldergrove Secondary school (ACSS) Totems senior boys’ soccer team captured a berth at the provincial championships and earned a chance at the Fraser Valley banner this past week with a pair of gutsy wins.

Entering the Fraser Valley Championships as the seventh out of eight seeds, the Totems travelled to second-ranked Pitt Meadows Secondary on Tuesday to face the Marauders.

Anchored by the central midfield trio of Alex Jang, Simone Intermite and co-captain Ryan Schmunk, the Totems opted to put defence first.

They denied Pitt Meadows possession for much of the first half and entered the break tied 0-0.

The beginning of the second half, however, saw a rare Totems’ defensive lapse. A Pitt Meadows striker snuck in to the penalty area unmarked, and he was able to slide the ball past the onrushing Tavares Demelo to open the scoring.

ACSS did not panic, and the chances for the Totems began to pile up. A foul just inside the attacking half gave Japan’s Kohsuke Tsutsui the opportunity to float a free kick into the Marauders penalty area.

A short game of pinball ensued, with co-captain Koh Ota finally bulging the twine with an emphatic finish.

The Totems continued to build pressure and were rewarded with another free kick, this time deeper in Marauder’s territory and near the sideline. ACSS flooded the penalty area with players eager to get their heads on the expected cross, but Ota had other ideas.

A precision strike curled just inside the far post, eluded the Pitt Meadows keeper, and put the Totems ahead 2-1.

A number of key saves from Demelo and stalwart defending from Koh Yamada, Daniel Livingstone, Jimmy Zong, and Shion Yamamoto would carry the Totems through the final minutes to victory, and a date with number three seed Burnsview Secondary Griffins in Delta.

Thursday’s Fraser Valley semifinal against the Griffins would follow a similar script to Tuesday’s match. The ACSS midfield proved to be very strong again, with Tsutsui and Johnny Puigvert neutralizing attacks from the flanks, and Sean Connolly, Keisuke Gunji, and Ryohei Hasegawa providing good attacking options.

ACSS had a great deal of possession and applied pressure consistently, but the first frame did not end scoreless. Burnsview was able to skirt the defence and finish a cross off, providing them with a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The Totems ratcheted up the pressure in the second half, and again were rewarded with a free kick from distance. Once again the ball rattled around the penalty area before a Totem, this time Ryan Schmunk, slammed it home from close range.

With the score level, Burnsview attempted to match the tempo of ACSS, and were rewarded with chances of their own, only to be thwarted several times by the Totems defensive corps. With less than ten minutes remaining, the ball found Koh Ota in the penalty area, one-on-one with a Griffin defender.

Calmly side-stepping to the right, Ota unleashed a curling right-footed blast that left the Burnsview keeper little to do but paw at the ball helplessly as it streaked past him and into the goal. It was now 2-1 for Aldergrove.

With such little time on the clock, it looked as though ACSS had claimed a second high-seeded scalp, but instead of calmly dealing with the Burnsview attack as the last of the sand trickled out of the hourglass, panic set in. Uncharacteristic fouls were committed, and in the final minute, the Griffins were rewarded with a free kick. The ball was lofted into the penalty area, rattled and bounced off attackers and defenders, and was eventually popped in by a conveniently placed Burnsview player.

Overtime was imminent.In the extra frame, both teams committed to attacking soccer, not wanting the disappointment of penalty kicks. But despite all efforts, including a blitzing solo run from Ota in the last minute of the extra frame that resulted in a struck crossbar, the game would not be solved by playing soccer.

Penalty kicks were on order, with the winner of the shoot-out claiming a place at the provincials and in the Fraser Valley final.

The first shooters from both teams scored, with the next two shooters from both sides unsuccessful in their attempts. The proceedings remained tied through four shooters, as both Connolly and his Burnsview counterpart were successful.

The final shooter from ACSS, Zong, powered his shot home to give the Totems the lead, leaving goalkeeper Demelo a chance to carry his team into the provincials. He stood strong, read the shooter perfectly, and parried the shot to end the prolonged affair.

This year’s Totems are a unique group, with a massive contingent of international students proudly representing ACSS. Though the players come from such diverse backgrounds, including Japan, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Germany, and Canada, they have peaked as a team at the perfect time.

Next up is the Fraser Valley Final Nov. 12, 3 p.m. at Brookswood Secondary against the Bobcats, and then the provincial tournament in Burnaby, Nov. 23-25.