Oak Bay, SMUS squeeze through to Ryan Cup final

The Oak Bay Breakers are holding true to their No 1 ranking in B.C. senior girls’ soccer play, but it took an extra effort on Thursday afternoon.

Maddie Trimmer headed home Anelise Karakostas’s cross off a free kick in the 66th minute as the Breakers edged the Stelly’s Stingers 1-0 in the Ryan Cup semifinal on a sizzling, sunny day on the turf fields at the University of Victoria.

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The Breakers will face St. Michaels University School in Tuesday’s final of the city championship after the Blue Jags out-lasted the Reynolds Roadrunners 7-6 in penalty kicks that went 13 players deep.

That result was tied 1-1 after regulation and extra time before Taylor Noel finally put it away for SMUS with her second goal in PKs as the teams went through their full 11 players on the pitch. Keeper Anna Mollenhauer made one more save than Reynolds’ Natalie Koehn.

Koehn is a star striker at the high school level, but played the second half, extra time and faced the kicks in goal as injuries have forced all three Roadrunners’ usual keepers out. Koehn dove far to her left and got a piece of Noel’s offering, but the ball rolled off her fingertips and in.

Abby Fraser had scored SMUS’s regulation-time goal on the team’s first shot, but Sophia Anderson had tied it for Reynolds in the first half.

The Breakers, meanwhile, had several good chances to score as they dictated play against the Stingers, who played it close to their vest with five regulars out due to injury, including defensive stalwart Mara McCleary.

Oak Bay finally broke through on Trimmer’s tally.

“We just didn’t do what we needed to do in the last 30 yards, but it’s hard against Jackie’s teams. Even without Mara, their best player, she gets the girls to battle,” Breakers coach Brent Garraway said of Jackie Cunningham’s game Stingers .

Patience won out on the day, though.

“It’s the maturity of learning how to finish those attacks earlier on in the game,” said Garraway. “It’s a good lesson for us. We’re really happy to get through. Anytime you’re competing for a local championship, it’s a nice feeling. The girls have been working their butts off to get to this.”

Karakostas, a Grade 10, was spectacular on the day with plenty of threatening runs, including one in which she advanced the ball forward off her head, ran it down, but slid a left-footer just wide left 58 minutes in. She also hit the goalpost in the 69th minute.

“It was intense. We weren’t really calm for a part of it, but once we settled down and played, we fixed it,” she said. “They definitely wanted it. They went into every tackle as hard as they could. I think it just came down to who wanted it more and I think that we did.”

The SMUS victory was a nail-biter for all involved.

“Incredible, wasn’t it,” said Reynolds coach J.J. Atterbury.

“It was a great match, all around,” said Blue Jags’ coach Nikki Kaufmann. “What a finish. I can’t say I have ever seen PKs, ever in my life, go to that many. It was a mental battle to the end.”

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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