The Royal Bay Ravens senior girls would rather have been playing in yesterday’s Ryan Cup soccer semifinals and competing for a spot in next week’s final.
But Tuesday’s 3-2 home loss to Stelly’s in the city championship quarter-finals leaves the Colwood team with more time to prepare for the Island AA championships.
“We’ll probably actually keep things light for our next training session, because now we have a little bit of time to prep,” said Ravens’ head coach Mariel Solsberg, noting that her players were “the quietest they’ve ever been” after the loss.
“To be honest it’s quite nice that we have a little more time to focus on our technical side, rather than always having a game every week.”
Getting players out to practice can be tough, she added, since they’re committed to a number of different activities.
Royal Bay was dominant in the A/AA league this spring, going 6-0-1 and allowing just one goal against. Despite going undefeated, the Ravens lost the league title to St. Michaels University School. The teams played to a scoreless draw back on April 26, but SMUS was awarded first place due to not giving up a goal all season.
While their second-place league finish qualified them for the Islands, set for June 2 to 4 in Campbell River, Royal Bay players were focused on doing as well as possible in the Ryan Cup competition, Solsberg said. The Cup tournament is the true city championship in that it pits top teams from each of the tiers in a single-knockout format.
In Tuesday’s match, possession was spread fairly evenly between Royal Bay and Stelly’s through the first half, which ended 2-2.
The Ravens largely carried the play in the second but were hard-pressed to come up with many quality scoring chances.
The winning goal came with only a few minutes left in regulation. Stelly’s standout Erin Jackson, who scored both of her team’s goals in the first half, took a pass up the middle and quickly fed Kelsey Boudreau, who drilled a long shot past the Royal Bay goalkeeper.
Brea Christie scored both Royal Bay goals in the opening half.
Asked what has made this group come together so well, Solsberg had a few theories.
“I think they’re really just positive with one another. They all seem to want to get better, want to help each other get better … I haven’t seen a group gel as quickly as they have. I don’t know what it is. If you look at the makeup of the team, it’s such a variety of people, such a variety of ages but for whatever reason it seems to click.”
With a large number of Grade 9 and 10 players who would otherwise be playing in the junior girls division, the Ravens are a great development squad because the older players mentor the younger ones, she said.
“Some of our starters are Grade 9s, going up against Grade 11 and 12s, which I think is fairly unique, and they seemed to fit in quite well,” Solsberg said. “I think that speaks volumes for the future for this group.”