THE Sentinel Spartans senior boys soccer team had a little score to settle as they took on the St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints with a berth in the provincial AA championships on the line Nov. 8 at Ambleside Park.
The teams tied for first place in the North Shore AA league with 19 points apiece but a 00 game between the two teams that turned into an overtime shootout victory for STA back in September gave the Saints first place and an easier road through the playoffs. Making that chip on Sentinel's shoulder even bigger was the fact that Sentinel ended the season with five regulation wins in eight games while STA registered only three, gaining ground in the standings by scoring five overtime shootout wins.
Once the playoffs started STA had two cracks at making provincials but lost their opener 3-1 to Burnaby's Cariboo Hill. Sentinel, meanwhile, hammered Collingwood 6-1 to set up the one-game showdown against STA for the final berth. Sentinel went into the contest believing they were the best AA team in the league despite their second-place ranking.
"We were frustrated - we played to a 0-0 tie against them (in September) and dominated the game," said coach Rob Inman. "If you look at the standings, Sentinel five wins, STA (three) wins. And STA gets the banner and it's like, 'what?'"
With that thought stewing in their minds, the Spartans stormed to a 2-0 win over the Saints, securing the coveted provincial spot while leaving STA with a North Shore championship but no shot at B.C. glory. It was a tight, tough game, said Inman, but his team wasn't going to be denied.
"STA played very well," he said. "It was a very hard-fought game. The referees could have easily handed out some yellow cards to both teams because there was some pretty aggressive play throughout the game but . . . they saw that the two first-place teams were playing off for the right to go to the B.C.'s and they let the play continue."
Sentinel will now carry the North Shore flag at provincials starting tomorrow at Burnaby Lake West Sports Complex. They won't have any time for settling in - Monday morning at 9 a.m. they'll take on Fraser Valley champs Aldergrove. Their other pool opponents are Kelowna's Okanagan Mission Monday at 12: 45 p.m. and Nelson's L.V. Rogers Tuesday at 11 a.m. To have a shot at the medals they'll need to finish first in their pool. It's a tall order but Inman believes he's got the squad to do it.
"We definitely have a chance of finishing in the top four with the team we have," he said.
"We've got a very tough opponent first game out. . . . When you're talking provincial championships, it's a one game knockout type of thing. And it's going to be raining. Anything can happen if you've got a tight, tight game and it's raining - a ball can slip through someone's hands. Anything can happen."
Whatever does happen, Inman is hoping his boys will make some memories that will last forever.
"Years from now you can tell your kids that you played in the B.C. high school championship," he told his team. "We'll just do our best."