Crowning achievement for junior Red Hawks
They did it!
The Red Hawks junior girls’ soccer team won the COSSA championship title with a thrilling 1-nil win in overtime off of a corner taken by their captain, Melissa Brinkos.
There was plenty of shock and relief for home fans and players on both sides, as the winning goal was tallied from a goal mouth scramble set off by a miscue.
The chain of events was set off by the corner being misplayed by the Knights keeper, who let the ball squeeze through her gloved hands and then the subsequent loose ball (on the goal line) inadvertently was knocked in by a defender. Fatigue likely factored in the miscues after more than 90 minutes of play was not enough to decide the final.
It doesn’t take away from effort by the Hawks, who had several chances to score in the second half alone and controlled much of the play for the game.
Head coach Janice Scheffee said this victory is special because of the work put in by her players even when winter had yet to relinquish the grasp on the highlands.
“They worked hard. Their skills have improved the entire season. They’re highly athletic so today it all came together at the right time,” Scheffee said. “They passed well. They were patient.”
The team started indoor practices in the gym back March when the snow is still blanketing the pitch.
“We were on the field two days before our first game on the field just because of field conditions with snow in April. So for us to start so much further behind [than other teams and] to get something like this shows that hard work does pay off and those number of touches do count and matter. It’s a big deal for our school. It really is,” she said.
Scheffee said there was surprise at the winning goal since she had trouble seeing if the goal went in from her vantage point. Having the own goal awarded to captain Brinkos was appropriate because of the hard work she has put in this season in not just making herself better, but the team too.
“For her to put the icing on the cake is perfect,” she said.
Brinkos was beaming, obviously happy, believing it exemplifies the team’s growth over the season.
“We grew a lot as the season went on so I’m really proud that we made it here,” she said.
Winning it all is a testament to the team effort, she adds.
“It’s amazing. This is a really great team and so it’s a great way to end it like this,” she said.
The shutout was earned by Connie Oh, but it was earned by the entire team and their gritty and intense style of play.
Brinkos is the consummate team player, Scheffee said.
Her response, deferring credit to her teammates doesn’t surprise her.
“She’s a team player and just wants the best for the team ... it’s not about individual success for her. She’s already played for the senior team earlier this year. She will continue to raise the level of our soccer teams for years to come,” she said.
Starting off the day not many would have predicted the eventual victory for the Red Hawks junior girls’ soccer team. Many would have not predicted the COSSA final would bring two Kawartha schools together such as the host Hawks and the visiting Norwood Knights, who upset Nicholson Catholic College 1-nil (late goal by Kristina Ellis with minutes left in the game) from Belleville.
Coming into the final, the Hawks had the advantage having earned a the bye to the final being the top A school seed of Kawartha (earned with an end season win). The Knights had played the semi-final a couple of hours before and had to win to make the final. Two games on a day when the temperature was above 33 degrees Celsius was a lot to ask, as the Hawks with its deep bench of plus six players enabled regular rotations.
To the credit of the Knights, they played well, keeping much of the Hawks attack on the outside and enduring the heat with no subs (one player was stretchered off for what appeared to be a head injury and taken to the hospital by ambulance) for much of the game.
The Hawks place in the final at COSSA was attributed to there only being one team representing Quinte.
Scheffee credited the team’s captains Brinkos and Paige Billings, who had to leave in the second half (the game started an hour later than scheduled) for personal reasons, with solid leadership and excellent play.
“Melissa is an extremely talented player and she’s raised the level of the team. She moved here and joined our high school last year. Her skills have elevated all of us and so she is counted on those key times. We count on her a lot – all of the Grade 10 players,” she said, referring also to Billings, Hailey Anderson, Jessica Byers, Matea Cameron and Trista Greer.
Getting to host COSSA and coming through in the game with the win could mean greater attention and a better turnout for the teams.
“Hopefully, we can get more girls that want to play. We had a lot. Most of our team on the roster are Grade 9s, which is nice to see. We only had four returning Grade 10 players so we had Jessica Byers, a new Grade 10 player, but we have a solid core coming back and hopefully if we can get some more girls coming out in Grade 9 the program can only get stronger,” she said.