The Seycove senior girls soccer team scored silver at the AA provincial championships held last weekend in Burnaby, riding a late-season surge all the way to the championship final before ultimately losing to Powell River’s Brooks secondary T-Birds.
The Seyhawks were looking to win the second title in team history — they claimed the AA crown for the first time in 2012 — but fell just short in the final, losing 2-1 at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West.
“I wouldn’t have asked the girls to do anything differently,” said head coach Sam Stackhouse. “I think we kind of left it all on the field. As kind of bittersweet as it is to lose in the final, we all ended up leaving with a good feeling after playing a really good game. . . . It was our goal for the whole season just to get to that final. It’s a little bittersweet because obviously we were looking for that first-place finish, but no complaints here.”
That goal of making the final seemed nearly unattainable for much of the year for Seycove. The team started their season with a blowout exhibition loss against Argyle in late March that let them all know they had a long way to go.
“It was a group of individually very talented players but they just did not gel as a team,” said Stackhouse. “Argyle just completely dominated us. It was hard to watch. I just remember sitting there thinking, ‘We’ve got a big hole to dig ourselves out of.’”
Things got a little better during the regular season but the Seyhawks still finished second in the North Shore AA league behind Windsor, forcing them to take a long a treacherous path just to make it to provincials. The Seyhawks fought their way through it, however, scoring a 1-0 win over Sutherland to make it to the zone playdowns where they knocked off Burnaby’s top two squads in two straight road games to clinch a provincial berth.
Stackhouse was on a trip to India during the zone playoffs — she booked it before she knew she’d be Seycove’s head coach again this season after she was replaced by new vice principal Greg Hockley last year — so coach Sean Brown took control of the team in her absence.
“I was sitting in my hotel room in India with the 12-hour time difference, trying to get the play-by-play,” she said, adding that winning those three do-or-die zone playoff games gave the team a big shot of confidence heading into provincials.
“After we got to provincials it was like, the hard part is almost over after those three,” said Stackhouse.
The only problem for Stackhouse with making the provincial championships was that she was still in India and not due back until the week after the tournament. She changed her flight home, however, and surprised the team by meeting them on the field before the start of the first provincial game.
“It was a pretty good surprise when I showed up to the field,” she said. Whether the team was inspired by their coach’s surprise or just hitting their peak, the Seyhawks breezed through round robin play without allowing a goal to earn a matchup against St. Michaels University School in the semifinals Friday afternoon.
“We rolled into the semis feeling really good,” said Stackhouse, adding that the late-May heat took some wind out of their sails as the two teams battled all afternoon without either scoring a goal.
“It was smoking hot on Friday,” she said. “That game was a grinder, for sure. We had a number of chances but we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. We came pretty much as close as you could to scoring without actually scoring.”
That meant a shootout with a berth in the provincial final on the line. The two teams were still tied after five shooters when Stackhouse found a reluctant hero in sudden-death kicks.
“I had two players who I was trying to pick between to take the shot and one of them just said ‘absolutely not.’ She wasn’t going anywhere near that ball. So then I ended up going with one of our senior players, Kristen Louie, and she was quite nervous. . . . I’ve known her for a long time, coached her since Grade 9, and I had one of those things — you know when you have just total faith in the person and the outcome? She went up for her shot, scored and then when the St. Michaels player missed her shot, we won. It was probably the highlight of the whole tournament. It was just an amazing feeling for everybody.”
On the other side of the draw Seycove’s fierce North Vancouver rivals from Windsor faced the exact same situation but came out on the losing end of a semifinal shootout against Brooks. Windsor ended up fourth in the tournament after losing 3-0 against SMUS in the bronze medal game.
“It was very close to being an all-North Shore final,” said Stackhouse. “It’s amazing that we had two teams in the top four. . . . If you look at the teams that finished top four, you could play any of us against each other and it’s just such a quality top four. I think it was anybody’s game.”
In the final Seycove took a 1-0 lead just minutes into the game but Brooks answered back almost immediately. The score remained tied 1-1 until midway through the second half when Brooks scored the winner to claim the title.
Grade 12 co-captain Jenna Hewitt Konda, bound for Brown University on a hockey scholarship next year, was named Seycove representative on the Commissioner’s XI tournament all-star team. Other standouts included Grade 12 co-captain Alex Glass, the sister duo of Karly (Grade 12) and Erica Butterfield (Grade 11), Michaela Steele, Kyra Ford and goalkeeper Chloe Parker.
Considering the start to the season that they had, Stackhouse marveled at the complete team the Seyhawks had become by provincial time.
“We had a very, very deep roster. . . . We couldn’t really go wrong with our lineup,” she said. “They play so well as a team together and they all just wanted it so badly. . . . Whether they were playing a five-minute shift or whether they were playing a whole game, they knew their roles so well, everybody filled their roles, did their jobs.”