THE Collingwood Cavaliers senior girls field hockey team claimed the AA provincial championship banner Nov. 9 in Burnaby, avenging a heartbreaking defeat in the process.
Ever since they lost to the Shawnigan Lake Stags in last year's championship game the Cavaliers have been bent on getting to this year's final, hopefully against those same Stags, and getting some revenge. Last week they got their rematch and their revenge, beating Shawnigan 1-0 in a tight and tense final.
"It really meant a lot to the girls to win provincials and they really wanted to play Shawnigan in the final and to beat them for their own sense of accomplishment," said Ashleigh Gold, Cavaliers co-coach along with Catherine Underwood and Sara Bruner. "(Shawnigan) is a very well-coached team but it felt great to come back and defeat them in the final."
The Collingwood team that made this year's final was close to identical to last year's team, making the rematch with Shawnigan all the more fraught with meaning.
"The desire to win and to beat that school was really deep in them," said Gold. "It was a big passion in the girls and it helped drive them to then end."
The Cavaliers, fresh off an upset over Handsworth to claim the North Shore title, showed their strength throughout the tournament. They outscored their opponents 19-0 through the first four games to make the semifinals where things got tougher against St. Michaels University.
Two goals from scoring whiz Leah Frome - who ended the tournament with 10 goals - paced the Cavaliers to a nail-biting 2-1 win. "St. Michaels always comes out hard and they're a very well coached team," said Gold, adding that the semifinal scare added even more fire to Collingwood's cause as they geared up for the final.
In the final Hailey Reeves got the Cavaliers on the board 17 minutes into the first half, swatting in the rebound off of a blast from Katarina Angus. From that point on the play went back and forth but the ball never again found the back of the net. In the final five minutes Collingwood ragged the ball in the Shawnigan Lake end, killing the clock with a bit of keep-away.
"It was nerve-wracking . . . it was a long five minutes," said Gold with a laugh. Then it was over and the Cavaliers met in the traditional dog pile of champions. "It was just an explosion of joy and tears and pure happiness when that final whistle blew."
The win gave the Cavaliers their third title in the last five years - since 2008 they've won gold, silver, gold, silver and now gold again.
This year's squad was guided by Frome, Reeves and Angus, co-captains who have all played in the junior national team program. With Frome up front, Reeves in midfield and Angus on defence they formed the central spine of the team.
"Leah being on the forward line and scoring goals, Hailey maintaining the possession on the field and the communication, and Katarina just holding the defence - nobody can get through Katarina, she's an extremely skilled defender - having those three up the middle as the core of the team drives us. They were kind of the pillars to our success. . . .
Just to have that strength down the middle of the field provides confidence for everybody," said Gold. She was quick to add, however that every Collingwood player stepped up during the championship tournament.
"They were determined, they were focused, they had one goal and they played their hearts out to get that championship and that banner," she said. "They wanted to go out there and dominate and that's exactly what they did. They had it in their hands the whole time and they kept focus, which is incredible to see for high school athletes."