Co-op Highlanders open Challenge Cup tournament with decisive 4-0 win

(Photo credit: Highlanders Communications)

PENTICTION – Peninsula Co-op Highlanders carried their regular season hot streak into the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament, rolling to a 4-0 victory against Kamloops Heat in a game that displayed both the Highlanders’ potent offence as well as their defensive capabilities.

CHALLENGE CUP INFO

Forward Emma Greig opened the scoring for Victoria, with teammates Katie Kraeutner and captain Liz Hansen accounting for the additional three goals in the match. Goalkeeper Steph Parker picked up the clean sheet in the victory.

Looking for his team to jump out to an early start, head coach Dave Dew got his wish as a result of a hardworking play that featured midfielder Katie Kraeutner saving a live ball in the attacking corner of the pitch. Settling the ball, Kraeutner then fed a perfectly placed ball onto the head of Greig, who redirected the cross into the back of the net for the early lead.

The Highlanders’ defensive capabilities were on display Saturday, showcasing their ability to shut down the Heat’s offence led by striker Alanna Bekkering. Bekkering, the 2013-14 PACWEST Female Athlete of the Year was all but absent from the match as a result of Victoria’s solid back line play.

After several additional offensive opportunities for Victoria following Greig’s tally, Kraeutner added a goal of her own in the 41st minute, sending an arcing shot into the back of the net after receiving a beautiful service from ‘keeper Parker to give the Highlanders a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

Hansen added to the lead early in the second half, going one-on-one with Heat ‘keeper Taylor Shantz before slotting a low, hard shot to the left corner of the net for the 3-0 lead. Just over a minute later, she completed the second half brace with a redirect into the net off yet another Kraeutner cross.

The Highlanders received little threat from the Heat in their defensive third of the pitch as the game began to enter its final stages of play. Perhaps the strongest chance to pull five goals ahead came off the foot of second-half substitute Sachi Swift, who was unable to find any Highlander player with a hard cross through the attacking zone.

Kamloops would be unable to cut the lead as the Highlanders rolled to a 4-0 victory in the semifinals of the Challenge Cup. A 3-0 victory by Vancouver Whitecaps in Saturday’s other Premier Women’s semifinal sets up a Sunday final between them and the Highlanders, Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

“We started fast and we never took our foot off the gas,” explained Highlanders head coach Dave Dew. “There were four real quality goals and ton of real quality chances. The team did exactly what I asked them to do.”

The Highlanders swept their two regular season matches with the ‘Caps this year, rolling to 3-1 and 3-2 victories and will look to repeat that success when they kick-off tomorrow in an attempt to capture their first-ever PCSL Challenge Cup title. For recaps on all this weekend’s Challenge Cup matches that include the Highlanders men’s and women’s reserve squads, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.

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