Hyacks make long-waited return to provincials

A little luck never hurts, but a lot of determination can work wonders.

The New Westminster Hyacks senior girls soccer team served an upset of sorts by knocking off the West Vancouver Highlanders 2-0 last Thursday to earn a berth to the provincial AAA soccer championship tournament at UBC.

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In a season where fielding a full roster was a challenge at times, the Hyacks elevated their game and were fully in tune with the system coach Wayne McCarthy had installed, showing that their first-round loss to No. 1-ranked Argyle did not crack their foundation.

“Just knowing we had a second chance was a big thing,” remarked striker Nisa Reehal of the 3-0 Argyle loss on May 14. “We really wanted to get to provincials. We didn’t accept the loss to Argyle, we just wanted to keep playing.”

And play they did. Both teams came out cautiously, with West Van getting turned aside by the Hyack defence. A fortunate break came at the 29-minute mark when the referee called the Highlanders netminder for holding the ball outside the goal box, putting New West captain Georgia Brydon a free kick.

The Grade 12 forward didn’t miss, firing a missile over the defensive line and past the diving keeper for the 1-0 lead.

West Van, which had defeated Burnaby North 5-0 earlier in the week, came out hungry for the equalizer in the second half, but the New West defence held its ground.

While weathering the storm on the defensive side, the Hyacks iced it with 13 minutes left in regulation when Grade 9 striker Sarah Gallant, one minute after entering the game, buried a Brydon pass with a low shot from 18 yards out.

“(West Van) was really tough, we really came out wanting to focus on being mostly tight on defence. (After Argyle) we kind of picked up how we had to play, we tried to squeeze the play and kept things to the outside,” said Reehal.

Netminder Alia Homenuke was full marks for the clean sheet, while stellar support was provided by Sarah Forgie, Sonia Sarai and Christine Singh.

“The key was our team defence. Overall they played a strong, disciplined game and when (West Van) pushed forward our players came back,” remarked McCarthy. “We’ll have to play a full-team game (at B.C.s) and get behind the ball. Everyone is committed to defence.”

For Reehal, who plays high performance soccer with Coastal FC in White Rock, getting the coveted and hard-earned berth to the provincials almost came out of the blue.

“It’s definitely really exciting since soccer is never one of (New West’s) strong suits. … I was definitely jumping all around and happy,” she said. “Honestly I didn’t think that we’d get to provincials, but I knew we had a good chance at winning the banner.”

New West opens the tourney at UBC on May 31 against McMath (10:45 a.m.) and North Peace (2:15 p.m.). They play Fraser Valley champion Centennial on June 1 to end the round-robin portion of the tournament.

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