Co-op Highlanders complete perfect season, capture first ever Dave Fryatt Challenge Cup
PENTICTON – Peninsula Co-op Highlanders completed their perfect season, July 27, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps in the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Challenge Cup final by a score of 2-0. Mia Gunter and Emma Greig scored for Victoria, while goalkeeper Steph Parker earned her second clean sheet of the weekend between the woodwork.
The Highlanders were impressive on both sides of the ball once again, converting on the opportunities they needed while shutting down the ‘Caps offence on their few chances. It was Gunter who opened up scoring for Victoria, stealing the ball in Victoria’s attacking zone before firing a low shot across the goal mouth and into the net at 30 minutes of the first half.
Greig—perhaps the Highlanders’ most threatening offensive weapon on Sunday along with captain Liz Hansen—featured on one of the few quality chances in the first half, pushing into the attacking zone before sliding into ‘Caps keeper Priya Sandhu, who managed to gain possession of the loose ball. A late chance from Victoria captain Liz Hansen on a half-volley in close would be just off as Victoria settled for the 1-0 lead heading into the break.
Parker came up big early in the second half for Victoria, coming out to challenge a Vancouver striker on what would have been a breakaway for the ‘Caps. The split-second decision paid dividends as Parker slid to collect the ball, preventing a potential equalizer. The close call would turn out to be Vancouver’s best opportunity in the match, as they struggled to break through for the remainder of the game.
Victoria continued to press for a second goal, with midfielder Katie Kraeutner’s shot from in close going just high over the crossbar. Kraeutner’s chance was followed up with another great opportunity from Hansen, who received a feed from teammate Jaclyn Sawicki inside the attacking zone, ringing a blast off the post in the 52nd minute.
After dictating a majority of the play for nearly 20 minutes following half time, Victoria increased their lead to 2-0 when Greig received a through-ball from midfielder Cassie Dennis before going up the right side of the field on a solo rush and slotting it past ‘keeper Sandhu.
With time winding down in the game, the Highlanders were able to kill valuable minutes off with smart ball possession as they neared their first PCSL title in club history.
“Defensively we were spot-on today,” explained Highlanders head coach Dave Dew. The first half plan was to not give them time and not give them space, take care of that stuff first and worry about the other stuff after. The second half featured more of the same for us, deny them space and deny them time.”
Another Parker save in the final minutes of the game would be the closest the ‘Caps would come to scoring, as Victoria executed their game plan to perfection, earning 2-0 victory and their first ever Dave Fryatt Challenge Cup title. The win completes an impressive 12-0-0 PCSL season for the Highlanders.
The Highlanders men’s reserve squad also placed first in their division over the weekend with a 1-0 victory over Mid Isle Highlanders, while the women’s reserve squad fell just shy of their own title with a 2-1 loss to host Penticton Pinnacles in their division finals. For more information on the Highlanders soccer programs, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.