LAST year the Seycove senior girls soccer team put together an excellent season - they finished first in the North Shore AA league - that was cut short by a pair of playoff losses.
Needing just one more win to advance to the provincial championships, the Seyhawks first lost in overtime to Burnaby's St. Thomas More and then lost their second-chance qualifier to their North Van rivals from Windsor.
This year the Seyhawks won the North Shore championships and moved on to a provincial qualifier against St. Thomas More. They lost in overtime. Their opponents in the second chance qualifier? Windsor secondary.
Feeling a little déjà vu?
"That was definitely in the back of our minds the entire time," Seycove head coach Sam Stackhouse told the North Shore News. "I have essentially the same team that I did last year. About three quarters of my girls are in Grade 12. They were there last year."
The Seycove vs. Windsor showdown, 2012 edition, took place Wednesday at Sutherland turf field and it was a tight one throughout. The teams traded chances and goals and were tied 2-2 with time winding down and overtime looming. But then with less than 10 minutes left Seycove's Alex Southam found the ball in front of the Windsor net and fired it in for the game-winner.
"It was just a mad scramble in front of the net off of a cross - we actually couldn't tell who put it in," said Stackhouse. "I was sure we were going to go into overtime and then we pulled off a goal. It was pretty exciting."
The goal and the win allowed the Seyhawks to free themselves of previous faults. While last year's collapse was still stinging there were fresher wounds as well - Seycove had a two-goal lead against STM on Monday but couldn't hold on. On Wednesday they made the most of their final chance.
"I've never seen my girls so fired up before . . . I couldn't be more proud of them," said Stackhouse. "In our Monday game against STM we got up by two and then we just kind of sat back and let them score on us. We talked about what we needed to do to keep the intensity up. Everyone was giving 100 per cent the entire time. There was never really a lull, it was just go go go the entire game."
The Seyhawks are led by a pair of Grade 12s with a lot of experience. Centre midfielder Meagan Pasternak, bound for UBC on a soccer scholarship in the fall, controls the flow of play for the team. She's also a member of the Whitecaps junior program and last year her Whitecaps coaches asked her not to play high school soccer, so she acted as the Seyhawks manager instead. They relented this year, allowing her to trade in her clipboard for high-powered cleats.
"I think she felt like she wanted to be a leader this year," said Stackhouse. "And she has come out and been really positive and leads by example. She's quite a skilled player but also tries to keep everyone involved."
The second half of the team's 1-2 punch is top scorer Nicole Saxvik, a talented athlete who opted to play hockey instead of club soccer this winter but came back to the pitch for the high school season.
"We always say that she kind of plays soccer like she's still playing hockey - like really, really physical," said Stackhouse. "It kind of sends a message when she's out there: don't mess with us. She's played essentially every minute of every game all season and the girls definitely see her as a leader and look to her in the time when we're down 1-0 or it's the last couple of minutes."
The Seyhawks also benefit from their coach's experience - a third-year player at Douglas College, Stackhouse has been helping out her old high school team ever since she graduated from Seycove in 2008. She started as an assistant, then coached junior for two years before taking over the senior team last season. Things have changed since she moved from the field to the bench.
"When I played we didn't have practices, there wasn't a lot of support for the team," she said. "I came in and have tried to create more of a development program. . . . There are more rules and more expectations than when I played. We do practice and we do train and we do expect that the girls are committed to soccer."
The team will now focus on the provincial championships, scheduled for May 31-June 2 in Kamloops. They have a chance to do some real damage at the tournament, said Stackhouse, adding that this is the best Seycove team she's seen in 10 years as a player and coach.
"I don't think in my time being involved in the program that we've had a team that has come first on the North Shore and gone off to provincials," she said. "It's kind of a whole new world for us. It'll be a high level of play but I think that we can make an impact, that we can do well. Everyone is really, really excited for it and really keen to do well."