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Tears flow as Centennial wins soccer title

Tears flowed as Danae Robillard clung to her coach, Larry Moro, in an extended bear hug. Her high school athletic career had come to a conclusion in anxiety-filled fashion minutes earlier.
soccer champions
Centennial Centaurs' Sophia Ferreira, centre, is mobbed by two of her teammates celebrating her game-winning goal in the second overtime of their BC High School senior girls AAA soccer championship at UBC's Thunderbird Stadium as Fleetwood Park Dragons defender Christa Wright reacts.

Tears flowed as Danae Robillard clung to her coach, Larry Moro, in an extended bear hug. Her high school athletic career had come to a conclusion in anxiety-filled fashion minutes earlier. But, most importantly, it finished in the finest way possible, a provincial title.

The Centennial Centaurs captain had just led her squad to a 1-0 victory over Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium in the B.C. girls soccer championship final.

“Amazing,” said the midfielder who will play for Simon Fraser University next year.

Despite dominating play, there were many anxious moments because they hadn't been rewarded with a ball in the back of the net. But they finally did. It took until there was just three minutes left in overtime. And when they did it sent the entire Centaurs squad into squealing ecstasy.

“It was really hard," said Robillard of the angst of going goalless for so long. You just never think (a goal is) going to come. Thank goodness Sophie hit it hard.”

That would be Grade 9 winger Sophia Ferreira, who took a sweet pass from Raegan Mackenzie on the right corner of the six-yard box and slotted a shot between Fleetwood goalie Soninka Nandha’s legs. The five-hole wasn’t where she was aiming, though.

“I didn’t even know what to think,” said Ferreira. “As soon as Raegan passed to me I was in shock. 

“The coach has always told me to go for the far corner, so I did, but it went between her legs … It’s an amazing experience. One of my goals in life was to do this for my school.”

Moro couldn’t stop smiling, although he did take the time to reflect on how the victory came on the 14th anniversary of the death of his mother Virginia. Moro has coached the Centaurs since 2000. They won the province in his first year but hadn’t since. But he’s taken a team to the provincials 16 times in 19 years, and the fifth time Centennial has won a medal.

“I’m just so proud,” said the head of Centennial’s physical education department who has been at the Coquitlam school for 21 years. “We never finished out of the top 10, but you want the top prize.

“We felt we were the best team in the tournament.”

One of the best players was Mackenzie, a tall Grade 10 forward who scored both of Centennial’s goals in downing Victoria’s Reynolds Roadrunners 2-0 in the semifinal Thursday afternoon. Mackenzie used her height and talent to generate chances for the Centaurs, but she was also kept generally in check by tiny Grade 9 Dragons defender Priya Uppal, who was close to a foot shorter than Mackenzie. That, of course, was until she set up Ferreira for the winner.

“She has such a soft touch,” said Moro. “She’s such a skilled player. She’s got great vision. She sees these passes that sometimes her teammates don’t see.”

The Thunderbird Stadium turf was totally tilted in whatever direction the Centaurs were shooting. They had gilt-edged chances galore, but Nandha played like a slick-fielding shortstop to catch or block anything that came into her crease. At the other end, Centennial goalkeeper Kelsey Eckert resembled a backline sweeper. She spent most of her time 30 yards out of her net taking care of any stray balls that happened to cross the centreline just to relieve the boredom from lack of action.

Last week Moro told The Tri-City News the team’s chemistry was coming together, but was struggling to score. Those words almost came back to haunt him. In the round robin Wednesday, the Centaurs played to a scoreless draw with Richmond’s McMath Wildats, even though Centennial had the vast majority of the play. Both teams ended up tied for first in their division with two wins and a tie forcing a shootout to determine who would advance to the final four. Fortunately for Centennial, Robillard scored the deciding goal.

So when they didn’t get a goal in the final until 82 minutes of play had passed, his pre-tournament fear was in danger of turning into reality.

“It was very prophetic. We did the job in midfield. We just had to put the ball in the net,” said Moro. “The good thing is we knew they couldn’t score on us.”

Crosstown rival Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils came in seventh while the Riverside Rapids of Port Coquitlam were 11th.