By Steven Smeall
The Algonquin Thunder fell just short in their quest for hardware at nationals this week, losing 2-0 to Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in the bronze medal match Saturday.
The game featured tons of back-and-forth action, but unfortunately the Thunder just couldn’t hold off their opponent.
“When you look at the season overall it’s been a great season for the Thunder,” said head coach Dom Oliveri. “We vitalized the program after 10 years to get to nationals and fourth-ranked in the country.”
“I don’t think anyone would’ve picked us to do that at the start of the season. It’s a great day for the program.”
Throughout the first half of the match, TRU threatened Algonquin with multiple offensive chances and finally stuck in the 45th minute of the game, when TRU forward Courtney Daly managed to put a header past Thunder goalkeeper Jennifer Kelly.
In the first half, Algonquin saw multiple fouls called against them which prevented the Thunder from building on opportunities in TRU’s end of the field.
Thunder forward Jaymie Baldree and defender Jenna Baldree were both assessed yellow cards in the first half of the game for dissent by word to opponents or the referee.
Coming into the second half Algonquin pushed to tie the game up and, at many times, appeared as if they would do so.
However, with some solid play from TRU’s defense, Algonquin just could not get the ball in the back of the net.
Things got really heated towards the end of the game with Algonquin once again threatening to tie the game up.
Thunder forward Kandyce Whitehead collided with TRU goalkeeper Emily Edmundson late in the second half and was assessed a yellow card on the play.
The TRU Wolfpack fought back from that penalty and made it deep into the Thunder’s zone. An unfortunate bounce off a save from Jennifer Kelly went right to TRU’s Daly, who tapped in her second goal of the game in the 88th minute.
The second goal from TRU came so late in the game the Thunder could not come back .
The Thunder matched the record by the last Algonquin women’s soccer team that made nationals in 2002, finishing fourth overall then as well.
“Very proud of my girls,” said director of athletic operations Ron Port. “First-year coach Dom and Robin Rushton, Les Escobar, they’ve all done a great job with these ladies and the program can only go upward from here.”
With the year coming to a close, the Thunder say farewell to fifth-year players Jaymie Baldree, Kelly Avalos, Jennifer Groleau, and Jennifer Kelly.
Kelly Avalos was named player of the game for Algonquin and named Algonquin’s all-star for the nationals.
“She leaves everything on the field,” said Oliveri. “She’s played through a bunch of injuries all season long and in a leadership role as staff I couldn’t ask for anything better from her.”
“The players and the staff look up to her and really appreciate her efforts. We’re going to miss her for sure.”
Oliveri is already looking forward to next season to hopefully improve on this season’s efforts.