Girls' high school provincials are set to take place on Friday and Saturday at Prime Ministers' Park. In a match previously played, Carlton's Morgan Braaten fights for possession. Herald photoy by Gary Pearson
--PRINCE ALBERT--Top-flight high school soccer takes to the pitch on Friday, as Carlton Comprehensive is set to host girls’ provincials with both the Marauders and Crusaders touted to contend for medals.
Carlton lost last week’s seeding match to St. Mary in penalty kicks, which in actuality, had little effect on the provincial draw. The Crusaders finished in seventh place and are faced, dauntingly, with a match versus the defending champion, Saskatoon St. Joseph. The first-round match is an intriguing one, as it pits the two previous champions – Carlton in 2009 - against one another.
“I think that we actually like going in as the underdogs,” said Crusaders head coach Jennifer Ferguson. “It’s a lot of pressure when you play on your home field and you feel like you’re one of the teams that could contend for a medal.
“It’s kind of nice, we are sort of hoping they’ll (St. Joseph) underestimate what they will face.”
St. Mary finished the season ranked sixth and has the task of playing third-seeded Evan Hardy Collegiate, of whom the Maruaders know little about. Head coach Jamie Zurakowski said that although her squad is ranked higher than Carlton, the draw doesn’t favour one team over the other.
But St. Mary, she said, enters provincials with soaring confidence. The Marauders have triumphed in 19 of 22 games thus far, the majority without a full squad from which to select players from.
“I think this year probably more than most we have got the depth that we’ve never had on the bench, so I am hoping that will help carry us through and we can get a medal,” said Zurakowski.
Gold medals will be handed out to the team who wins three matches on the bounce. A single loss signifies the end of first-place aspirations for all competing sides, placing paramount pressure on contending schools from the outset of each match.
“We have to make sure that we stay to our game and not play someone else’s,” said Zurakowski. “I think, honestly, the teams are so close that it really is anybody’s game.”
With last minute preparations out of the way, St. Mary and Carlton are ready to defend their home city versus the top high school squads in the province. Regina LeBoldus are the top-seeded team with St. Joesph of Saskatoon embedded firmly in second.
St. Mary takes to the pitch versus Saskatoon's Evan Hardy Collegiate on Friday morning at 9 a.m., followed by Carlton’s opener versus St. Joseph at 11 a.m. Prime Ministers’ Park will play host to all matches.