Wolfpack U13 girls bid for Ontario Cup ends in quarter-finals

The Woolwich Wolfpack U13 girls made it to the Ontario Cup quarter-finals. The squad includes Anastasia Kraja, Victoria Chai, Olivia Stavropoulos, Alexis Cupolo, Taya Diefenbacher, Krystyna Dosen, Niya Garan, Isabella Grimaldi, Kate Halley, Halley Lance, Amara Lucier-Smith, Lauren Worsley, Amelia Wyatt, Charlotte Berry and Elysia Hum. Supporting the team are head coach Steve Dosen, assistant coach Keith Halley and team manager Sudo Kraja. [Faisal Ali | The Observer]

After a season spent regularly punching – or rather, kicking – above their own weight, the Wolfpack U13 girls met their match last weekend at the Ontario Cup quarter-finals.

Competing Saturday in Barrie, the Wolfpack girls saw their hopes for the provincial championship title dashed by their opponents, the formidable Barrie Blue U13 squad.

There was some disappointment amongst the Woolwich contingent as they headed home from Barrie after Saturday’s game, but for head coach Steve Dosen and assistant coach Keith Halley, the Wolfpack can still count their first attempt at the provincial cup a success.

“One of the things that coach Steve mentioned to the girls when we were sitting around – and their heads were low – but we reminded them that we did compete,” said Halley. “And for the bulk of that first half there was no score, and then there was one goal that they scored and a disallowed goal by us that really could have made it tighter. They competed.”

Considering this was the first year the girls were old enough to qualify for the Ontario Cup (which starts at U13), making it to the top eight teams in the provincial championship was a significant achievement, said Halley.

“At the beginning of the year if you’d said, ‘What are your goals?’, to advance in the Ontario Cup past the tournament round would have definitely been number-one on the list,” said Halley. “And at the very least the girls did that, and managed to earn a placement in the quarter-finals.”

The Wolfpack had a tough game ahead of them playing against the Barrie team, and despite holding their own in the first half of the game, they ultimately saw the win slip from their grasp.

“We were playing against Barrie Blue – that would be their ‘A’ team. And I would say they are among the better teams in the province. We knew that going in,” said Halley.

The Barrie Blue team had the competitive edge going into the match on Saturday, having played in a higher level league than the Wolfpack throughout the regular season. To make up for the difference, however, the Woolwich U13 girls regularly sought out and played in some of the most challenging tournaments that youth soccer has to offer, including playing at Ottawa Showcase the weekend before.

“I do believe that for us to be competitive, we had to make sure that we had some regular competition, if not from the league, then we would get into tournaments,” said Halley, noting that the Wolfpack had been placed in a league below their skill level for the regular season.

“And I’d say that some people would probably consider some of the tournaments that we got into out of league, but knowing that we should have been playing in a higher-level league, this was pivotal for us because we needed that competition to be able to play with the big dogs, when the opportunity came up.”

Their bid for the Ontario Cup over, the girls still have a few more games left in the regular season, including the playoffs and league cup, before they take a brief hiatus for the summer.

“So we hope to do well in that tournament and play as hard as we can and win our league,” said Halley. After that, the girls have maybe two or three weeks before they’re already gearing up for next year’s tryouts in September.

“There’s not much of a break for the girls, but that’s OK because they’ve committed to playing year round and getting better.”

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