Amy Wilson, a Crusaders midfielder, plays a long ball to the byline in soccer action on Friday afternoon. Her team won the match 6-0 versus the St. Mary B team. Herald photo by Gary Pearson
--PRINCE ALBERT--The cross-city rivalry between St. Mary and Carlton will once again take to the pitch, as both the girls and boys’ soccer team’s won their respective group matches on Friday to qualify for Saturday’s grand finals.
“We are doing really good this weekend,” said 16-year-old Morgan Braaten, who plays central midfielder for the Crusaders top girls squad. “We just play as a team and when we play as a team we really pull together.”
The host Carlton Crusaders girls started the tournament better than intended, winning their first two matches by a combined score of 13-1.
In the first match, the Crusaders walloped St. Mary’ reserve team 6-1.
Led by a core of technically gifted players, St. Mary’ reserve team felt the wrath of an in-form Crusaders’ squad led by a core of lightning quick, technically gifted players.
The young St. Mary team found the pace of the game difficult to cope with. Though they held nothing back, the class difference was evident from kickoff.
“This is our junior team, so they are learning quite a bit,” said Jamie Zurakowski, head coach of both St. Mary squads. “I think they were intimidated the first 10 minutes of the game.
“We played off the ball, they need to get on the ball.”
Justine Zbaraschuk opened the account for the Crusaders in the fifth minute. The ball fortuitously bounced in front of the diminutive right-sided player from a corner kick. Zbaraschuk didn’t need a second invitation, delicately picking her spot and slotting home.
The goal parade continued for the hosts’ top team. Knocking the ball around the pitch effortlessly, the Crusaders possessed the ball for large portions of the match.
Two goals in five minutes from the boot of Braaten put the result beyond any doubt.
Moose Jaw was next on the Crusaders’ radar in Friday’s afternoon fixture. Shifty and hard to track, Zbaraschuk and Sara Grassick timed their runs to perfection all afternoon, repeatedly beating Moose Jaw’s ineffective offside trap.
In the ninth minute, Zbaraschuk scampered down the line and had the wherewithal to cut a tremendous ball back to an onrushing Grassick, whose finish was top class. Zbaraschuk scored a goal of her own three minutes later to double the hosts’ lead.
The Peacock of Moose Jaw showed familiar frailties in the 17th minute, when a defensive error allowed Olivia Dunn a chance to get in on the action. Her neat-and-tidy finish capped off a blistering Crusaders’ start.
Carlton continued to inflict pain upon their opponents, adding another four to win the contest 7-0. One of the four Crusaders’ Grade 9 contingent, Madyson Burgess, played an integral role in both games. She said during lopsided games it is imperative to stay focused, as lapses and breakdowns could cost the team in higher-profile games.
“We are going to have to really focus. If we play our game we should do good,” said Burgess regarding Saturday’s final versus St. Mary’ "A" team.
Causing defenders fits, Burgess was a constant threat on the wing. She got on the score sheet Friday and could be an influential figure if the Crusaders are to be crowned champion.
In the other girls’ grouping, St. Mary’ “A” team took care of business, beating Carlton’s reserve team and Weyburn, 5-0 and 4-3 respectively, setting up an all-anticipated final.
The boys’ round-robin phase mirrored that of the girls. St. Mary and Carlton both won their matches to set up an all-Prince Albert showdown, with the boys final kicking off at 11 a.m., followed by the girls at 1 p.m.
Both finals will be played at Prime Ministers’ Park on Saturday.