John Murphy has more than a week to get his Terry Fox Ravens senior boys soccer team ready for the AAA provincial championship tournament that will be played in Burnaby Nov. 24–26.
He says they’re going to need it.
Murphy said many of the players are beat up from a gruelling schedule with their club teams, as well as an intense slate of games for the league and Fraser North zone playoffs in the past week.
That run culminated last Wednesday with the Ravens defeating the Burnaby North Vikings 2-1 in the championship final.
The victory means Fox will be the zone’s top seed in Burnaby.
Burnaby North also qualifies and they’ll be joined by the Riverside Rapids, which defeated Heritage Woods 4-1 to take third place in the zone tournament.
Murphy said securing a top seed is a confidence boost for his charges.
“Entering the provincials as a number one seed in arguably one of the toughest zones is huge,” he said.
Murphy said after a shaky and unorganized start to their season that included losses to Heritage Woods and Riverside, his Ravens rallied with a strong finish.
“We found our groove and started to play pretty decent soccer,” he said, adding the early losses helped ground the team and showed them the importance of putting in a full effort to achieve success.
“I think the players have bought into the ‘team first’ mentality,” Murphy said.
The Ravens’ offensive punch is led by Ethan Storey, who scored the first goal in the team’s win over Burnaby North.
Supporting players like Owen Watson, Adam Szymanski, Austin Iapulucci and Ryan West have also proved tough for opponents to play against and Jhonatan Vente Barrios, who scored the winning goal in the Fraser North final, has brought dynamic energy.
Murphy said it will be the play of those depth players that will be the key to achieving success in the intense provincial tournament, where teams play five games in just three days.
Riverside Rapids coach has been there before
Over at Riverside, coach Dave Jones knows what it takes to win at provincials. He’s done it before, but with the Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils, which he helmed for 11 years before heading down Mariner Way to the Port Coquitlam school.
Jones said taking his new charges to provincials in their first season together has been special.
“It is an incredible feeling to qualify,” he said.
The Rapids had an uphill struggle to get there.
After losing to Burnaby North in penalty kicks in their opening match at the zone tournament despite dominating the run of play, Riverside was forced to win its next three matches to get to provincials, culminating in a rematch with Heritage Woods, which beat the Rapids in the regular season, 3-1.
Jones said their success is testimony to the players’ passion and heart.
“The boys have really come together and the chemistry between them has gotten stronger with each game,” he said. “They are playing as a cohesive unit.”
If this side can keep that up — after a little rest and additional work in training on their offence, set pieces and penalty kicks — anything can happen, Jones said.
“We will be going into the tournament as a bit of an underdog,” he said. “When I look at the teams that have won provincials over the past 12 years, a common theme is good players that work hard as a team, play with intensity and have a bit of luck.”