Crusaders battle snow en route to shootout win over St. Joseph
Diandra Magee crouched on the goal-line.
Diandra Magee crouched on the goal-line.
There wasn't much to ponder. Make the save against the St. Joseph shooter from Saskatoon and Magee's Carlton Crusaders would be the provincial champions.
With winter arriving Saturday just in time and the snow blowing across the field, her toes were only growing colder as she awaited potentially the final shot in the championship game shootout.
But maybe, just maybe, going into that last shot, she had a little something on her side. A good omen, perhaps, as Carlton went on to win the shootout and capture the provincial high school girls' 3A soccer title at Kinsmen Field in Prince Albert.
You see, Magee normally wears a black bunny hug when the ("Are you seriously still playing soccer in this?") weather rears its snowflake-covered head.
But, as she realized just seconds before the game, St. Joseph also wears black.
So, as Magee stood on that line, she was sporting a white shirt from Soccerfest that already said "CHAMPS" on the back.
Magee jumped to her left, made the diving save and Carlton was crowned the provincial champion.
The Crusaders won 3-2 in the shootout - after the game had ended in a 1-1 draw - and capped a perfect 20-0 season with the most dramatic of finishes.
"I was just, like, 'Holy crap,' and I was going crazy," said Magee, recalling the moment after she realized the Crusaders had won. "I'm not usually a goalie, so it was wild. But I just need to really thank my coach (former Carlton keeper) Alicia Cartier, who helped me so much."
She's normally a defender. But not this year.
At the beginning of the season, the Crusaders were platooning three different goalies, and Magee wasn't even one of them.
But, at a tournament in Moose Jaw early in the season, she volunteered for the job and, from there, the heroic role was hers to embrace.
"Deandra made an amazing first save ... and once she made that, I knew we had a chance," said Carlton coach Jennifer Ferguson.
"She's never been in a shootout before, so I wasn't sure how she was going to respond."
And neither was Magee.
"I was really freaking out (after overtime), because we've been practising shootouts and my team is really good at shooting, but I was kind of freaking out, not knowing what was going to happen. But I had confidence in my team, so that helped a lot."
And you know what else helped a lot? A savvy scouting report.
"We had a little luck and we watched St. Joseph's shootout against Marion Graham in the semifinal," Ferguson said. "And we noticed that the goalie actually stepped to her right on every shot and made a couple of really good saves.
"So, Molly (Glass), of course, goes up and shoots right where I told her not to," she said with a laugh. "But the rest of the girls seemed to catch on that that was the spot to hit, and I think that really helped us."
Hali Moreland and Olivia Dunn scored the Crusaders' first two shootout goals, and the winning goal was delivered by Grade 9 midfielder Justine Zbaraschuk, who also netted the winner in the district final last weekend.
But, while the celebration was on in earnest after Magee's last save, the game itself was something of a war on ice.
With both teams possessing a solid defensive game and with the blustery - to put it nicely - conditions, the Crusaders' finesse game was all but nullified.
"(The poor weather) was a little deflating, because we've played so well all year, and then it comes down to a game where a good play isn't what will necessarily win it for you," Ferguson said. "You just hope you don't make a mistake that costs you the game.
"And we almost did a few times. I think our really skilled players, especially defensively, had a little trouble. They're used to being able to move the ball and control it, and that didn't work out quite the way they wanted it to."
Fortunately for Carlton, Dunn overcame the conditions to open the scoring midway through the first half, giving the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
But, unlike so many other games this year, the Crusaders' trademark early second-half lull bit them where it hurts.
St. Joseph slipped a shot short-side under a diving Magee to tie the game 1-1. After several more minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, the teams went to a shootout.
The Crusaders' win marks the first time since 1999 that Carlton has won the provincial girls' soccer championship, and also the first time since 2001 that a team not named Evan Hardy or Bishop Mahoney has raised the trophy.
Boys finish fifth in Regina
It wasn't quite gold, but the Carlton boys' side finished off a relatively successful weekend at the provincial 3A championship in Regina, with a 2-0 win over Yorkton on Saturday to end up in fifth place.
With the temperature at minus-6 at kickoff, it was another cold and wet affair, but the Crusaders prevailed over both the opposition and the weather.
"It was tough, with it being snowy and windy, but we can't control the weather, so you just have to play," said Carlton coach Mark Odnokon.
"We played really well defensively and I was happy with the effort."
Carlton got goals from Thomas Janzen and Patrick Rishchynski.
"The kids played well, despite the adverse conditions, and after we scored around the 30th minute, we controlled the whole game. And then, with 10 minutes left we salted it away."