Michelle Wessa’s header on Saturday stood up as the game-winning goal as the Douglas College Royals women’s soccer team disposed of the Quest Kermodes 3-1.
The victory, combined with a 2-2 draw a day later against the Vancouver Island University Mariners, solidified the squad's hold on first place in the PacWest League.
Wessa, named the league’s player of the week, also tallied against VIU in a game that saw the Royals get ahead 2-1 before the home team rallied. Also scoring twice on the weekend was team scoring leader Sam Kell.
“(Wessa’s) really tidy with the ball, but it’s without the ball where she really shines,” remarked Royals’ coach Chris Laxton. “She wins those big tackles and makes it so tough on the opposition.”
Winning the tackles is an area the team has excelled in, thanks to Wessa's leadership, he said .
Douglas College has had a few ups and downs during a whirlwind collegiate schedule, including a pair of 1-0 setbacks to third-place Langara over a span of 11 days.
Two weeks ago, the Falcons' Nicole Bell counted the game's only goal, as both goalkeepers faced five shots. Langara’s Sierra Grieco kept the Royals off the scoresheet.
It came after they had suffered a similar fate in late September, when the Falcons' netminder Sydney Bell made 13 saves in another 1-0 decision. Between those two losses, Douglas racked up eight goals in triumphs of 4-1 and 4-0 over Capilano and Langara. Alexa Gazzola earning the shutout in a 4-0 victory over Langara, while Mikayla Hamilton led the way with two goals.
Against second-place Capilano, the Royals got goals from Sonali Dholiwar, Martina Pettenon, Sneha Sandhu and Hamilton.
“The season is a bit of marathon ran at a 100-metre pace,” remarked Laxton.
Wessa’s contributions, as a fifth-year veteran, don’t come as a surprise to her coach.
“She’s always so steady,” said Laxton. “She hasn’t played at striker for us, but we’ve used her everywhere but goal this year. (Wessa) as consistent a player you could have, and she has a good head on her shoulders.”
Along with Kell, the pair set the standard for leadership with a squad peppered with first-year and third-year players.
Among the rookies, defenders Neeraj Braich and Preet Thandi, both Surrey products, and Pettenon, from Burnaby, have made a smooth adjustment to college soccer life.
“(Braich) has just been outstanding at fullback, while (Thandi) has played every minute for us and been a shutdown centreback. She gives us confidence back there with the way she moves the ball out of our end.
“(Pettenon) has been very composed, a real strong presence at forward.”
Douglas has a one-point grip on first place with a 6-3-2 record; however, Capilano holds a game in hand. The two teams will decide first place on Oct. 21, when the Royals host Capilano, 1 p.m. at Coquitlam Town Centre. In previous head-to-head play, they split the series.
The provincials are slated for Oct. 27 and 28 in Squamish.
Royals blank Kermodes
The Douglas College men’s soccer team is assured of a spot at the provincials next week.
By beating the Quest Kermodes 2-0 on Saturday, the Royals locked up third place, with one game left in the regular season.
Edris Najm, off a penalty kick early in the second half, and Tetsuya Yoshinaga supplied the offence.
Douglas looks to wrap up the regular season Saturday when they take on second-place Capilano, 3:30 p.m. at Coquitlam Town Centre.