by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
For the second year-in-a-row, the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) women's soccer final featured the same two schools; the host team and three-time defending ACAC champion NAIT Ooks along with the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves.
The Wolves lost the gold medal match last year 2-1 at the thee-day event hosted by Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder.
Returning this year from that game were both Ooks scorers' Kaily Mohn and Megan Loyns.
Also returning was Wolves' goalie Michelle Brodeur.
She was a rookie back then, having appeared in two ACAC regular season games.
In the 2016 playoffs she would start all thee games.
"We had three goalies at the time and I was kind of surprised that I started (playoffs), " recalled Brodeur. " I had worked hard and put so much effort into the team. I gained confidence knowing that the team and coach trusted me to start. It felt really nice."
That confidence carried over to 2017 as the Wolves achieved a nine win, one loss ACAC regular season slate with Brodeur starting all 10 games while allowing only eight goals.
Following a 3-0 quarterfinal decision against the host Olds College Broncos, Friday and a Saturday semi-final 1-0 defeat of the SAIT Trojans, the Wolves stepped out onto Normie Kwong Field against the Ooks.
The Ooks with a bye, had edged the Concordia University or Edmonton Thunder 1-0 in their semi-final Saturday.
"It was a bit nerve racking, knowing that we had split with them (Ooks during ACAC regular season, October 14, 2017 2-1 in favour of the Wolves and a 2-0 Ooks' victory October 15, 2017) but I knew that even if we got down, that we could persevere and get back into it," said Brodeur, a graduate of Edmonton's WP Wagner High School.
The Sunday gold medal game, according to an ACAC posting, would go as follows: "When Kaily Mohn put a shot into the back of the net at the 53 minute mark of the game, it looked like the Ooks would be able to ride their hot defense to a 1-0 win; and for over half an hour that's the way it looked.
|NAIT Ooks goalkeeper, Ashley Chaput|
However, in the 87th minute, an ill-advised hand ball in the box sent Jessica Winterford to take a free kick to knot the game at one. Winterford calmly kicked the ball past keeper Ashley Chaput, sending the game to extra time.
Extra time solved nothing, with neither team willing to give up any open field space. Besides a few free kick opportunities after fouls by the Wolves, offense was hard to come by in the extra half hour of play.
The ACAC Championship would be decided by penalty kicks. The Wolves got off to a quick lead after Winterford managed to score another, followed by three straight misses, two for NAIT, and one for Grande Prairie.
Alexi Watson and Shelby Henley both scored for the Wolves, giving Ashtyn Haycock a shot to win the championship.
Haycock made no mistake, placing the ball into the right side of the net to give the Wolves their first ever ACAC Women's Soccer Championship."
Of the win Brodeur said: "It felt really good as we worked so hard this year and to see our goal coming a reality."
Brodeur, enrolled in Early Learning & Child Care, now heads east to Halifax, Nova Scotia to attend the 2017 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Women's Soccer Championships from November 8-11, 2017 and hosted by the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus and University of King's College.
"Last year (at 2016 CCAA Women's Soccer Championships held in Montreal, Quebec and hosted by College Ahuntsic) we placed sixth. It felt good that we made it but it was a different level for us. We did not expect such high competition. We were just glad to be there.
"Now we know what it is all about and we know that you have to be ready."
This will be the first time that Brodeur has ever been east of Alberta in geographical Canada.
"To be by the ocean will be a good change."
Also heading east (ACAC Wildcard) are the Ooks, who placed fourth at last year's CCAA finals.
Included on the roster is Ooks' goalie Ashley Chaput, who like Brodeur, is a product of the St. Albert Impact soccer system.
Chaput is in her first season as an Ooks player, having minded the net the previous two years for the ACAC member University of Augustana Vikings in Camrose, Alberta.
"If you had asked me my first year, if I was going to go to (CCAA Women's Soccer Nationals), I would have said no, as Augustana was a developing program when I got there," said the 5-foot-5 Chaput, who is enrolled in Business Administration.
"Actually, I was not going to play (post-secondary) soccer this year as I had decided to go to the University of Alberta. But then I decided at the last minute, that NAIT was a better opportunity for the program I wanted."
Of the pressure playing for the three-time ACAC champ, "When I first came into (ACAC) I learned how to deal with adversity and how to become a better player as I was facing higher quality players than in youth soccer.
"Coming to NAIT, I didn't even know if I would make the team, let alone see the field. I knew that I had to put in some serious effort if I wanted to see the field."
Chaput, who first started playing goalie at age six, due to the fact that, "my dad told me that I shouldn't play goal because of the pressure and I wanted to prove that I could be good at it, had seven season ACAC regular season starts, allowing in only three goals.
According to the CCAA Women's Soccer Championships preview the Wolves will open the tournament against the St. Thomas Tommies, Wednesday November 8, 2017 at 10 a.m. AT: "The GPRC Wolves squeaked past the division-rival NAIT Ooks 2-1 on penalty kicks in the ACAC Championship game. The top seed in Pool A, GPRC finished in a tie for first place in the ACAC North Division with the Ooks. The conference champion Wolves will take on the ACAA champion St. Thomas Tommies, the No. 4 seed in Pool A. St. Thomas (5-4-3) finished third in the regular season but knocked off the MSVU Mystics on penalty kicks in the semi-final before blanking the UKC Blue Devils 1-0 in the ACAA conference final."
The preview added that the Ooks kickoff at 3 p.m. (AT) against the Douglas Royals: "The Douglas Royals knocked off the Capilano Blues on penalty kicks in the conference final. Douglas, led by PACWEST Player of the Year Mikayla Hamilton, finished atop the conference with a 7-3-2 record. The second seed in Pool B will face the NAIT Ooks in a rematch of last year's CCAA bronze-medal game, won by Douglas. NAIT, the third seed in Pool B, is the wildcard entry from the ACAC. They were defeated by the GPRC Wolves on penalty kicks in the conference final. Led by ACAC Player of the Year Megan Loyns, the Ooks finished in a tie for first place in the ACAC North Division with a 9-1 record."
CCAA Women's Soccer Championship Website. http://ccaa.ca/sports/wsoc/championship/information/index
CCAA Women's Soccer Championship Schedule and Results http://ccaa.ca/sports/wsoc/championship/schedule/index