By: Ian McAlpine
Their tears were supposed to be from joy, not sadness.
They were supposed to be standing in front of their home crowd on Saturday, Oct. 27 with gold medals around their necks, ready to represent Ontario at a national championship.
For the Algonquin Thunder women’s soccer team, the idea of hosting provincials meant an opportunity to win at home.
Things, however, would not go as planned as the team lost both the semifinal and bronze medal game finishing in fourth place with nothing.
“It’s really hard to put into words how much we wanted it,” said third-year midfielder Julie Paul. “This team put in so many hours on and off the field preparing for provincials.”
“This weekend we truly did give it all we could have,” said Thunder captain Kelly Avalos. “We couldn’t have wanted it any more than we did.”
The highlight of the weekend for the Thunder came from off the field where Avalos was given top honours by being named the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association women’s soccer player of the year and Canadian Colleges Athletic Association All-Canadian.
“There are hundreds of very strong women soccer players in Ontario whom I respect as players very much,” said Avalos. “Being recognized personally among all of them is a huge honour.”
Avalos, a fourth-year midfielder, played the full 90 minutes in each of the team’s regular season games in which the Thunder went 7-0-1, allowing just three goals in the process. She was player of the year in 2010 as well.
“Kelly is a big part of our team,” said head coach Garth Gittens. “She’s the engine. She doesn’t stop.”
Fourth-year midfielder Jaymie Baldree was named a league All-Star and the Thunder were named top defensive team.
However, come playoffs you can throw all regular season statistics out the window. The team that went undefeated, allowing just three goals in eight games while lighting up their opponents with 25 of their own, lost 1-0 to the Fanshawe Falcons in the semifinal.
The next day, in the bronze medal game, they lost 2-1 to the Centennial Colts on penalty kicks.
“Certainly the weekend was not what we expected and it’s heartbreak for the girls,” said Gittens. “It will take a while to get over for sure.”
“Losing our final game in penalty kicks two years in a row is hard,” said Avalos, whose Thunder lost on penalty kicks last year in the gold medal match. “Neither winning nor losing from penalty kicks is never a good representation of how the game itself was played.”
Despite the disappointing results, Algonquin College was proud to host the event.
“It takes a lot of effort to do this and do it right,” said school president Kent MacDonald. “It’s good for the college and it’s good for the girls. I think hosting it reflects that the OCAA realizes that we operate a tier-one athletic program here.”
Athletic Director Ron Port said it’s an honour to host an OCAA provincial championship and that Algonquin has always had success in the past doing so.
“Being able to play at home in front of everyone was such an honour and a privilege that I’m so happy this team got to experience,” said midfielder Julie Paul.
The Thunder haven’t won women’s soccer gold since 2002 but have been on the podium six times since.
The Humber Hawks completed the three-peat by winning their third straight OCAA championship. Fifth-year striker Keyla Moreno scored the games only goal in a 1-0 win over the Fanshawe Falcons in Saturday afternoon’s final. She was named tournament MVP.
“Our tears were shed, our hearts were broken, and we’ll sure miss training together each night,” said Avalos. “Although our season has come to an end, the bonds we’ve made this year are unbreakable and everlasting. We’ll always have our Thunder family.”