Centennial to play for Fraser Valley championship on Thursday

One goal is within reach for the Centennial Centaurs senior girls soccer team. And their coach hopes achieving that will put them in prime position to achieve the next — defending their AAA provincial championship.

The Centaurs will play Panorama Ridge Thursday at 2 p.m. in Cloverdale for the Fraser Valley championship, after Centennial beat the regional tournament’s top seed, South Delta, 3-1, in Monday’s semi-final at Winskill Park in Tsawwassen.

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The Centaurs, who were seeded fifth heading into the 16-team playdown, spotted the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead when they connected on a corner kick 15 minutes into the match.

But Centennial’s Raegan Mackenzie got the visitors back on even terms a minute later on a penalty kick.

Mackenzie’s second goal, 60 minutes into the match, proved to the winner as Centennial limited the home team to just one shot during the entire second half.

Kiara Buono also scored, curling a high shot just under the bar.

Centennial’s coach, Larry Moro, said his team’s ability to dominate ball possession against South Delta bodes well for Thursday’s finale and then on to provincials, with their berth already secure.

“It would be a feather in our cap and assure us of a top seed,” Moro said of the prospect of a second straight Fraser Valley championship. “But at the end of the day you have to beat everyone in your pool regardless of your seeding.”

Moro said Thursday’s opponent, Panorama Ridge, is a bit of an unknown quantity but he suspects a  brisk challenge from a side he called “hard-working and well-coached.”

Meanwhile, the Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils, who won the Fraser Valley North league title, will need to beat rival Riverside Rapids on Wednesday at Best’s turf field at 3 p.m. to stay alive in their quest for a provincials’ berth.

The Blue Devils, who were punted to the regional tournament’s consolation round by a 3-0 loss to Centennial last Wednesday, defeated the Enver Creek Cougars 4-0 on Monday.

“Our goal at the start of this season was to qualify for provincials,” said Blue Devils’ coach Alfonso Napoletano. “We are one win away from getting in.”

But that win will have to come through a familiar opponent with the capability to throw a monkey wrench into the works. The Rapids, who advanced after a 3-1 win over Fraser Heights on Monday, finished third in league play that included a tie against Centennial early in the season.

Riverview coach Kenny Jamieson said his team has been building momentum through the early rounds of the Fraser Valleys even as some of its regular players have been sidelined by injuries and absences.

“This pushed girls into roles or playing time that they weren’t necessarily used to,” Jamieson said, adding the side’s core of senior defenders, Natalie Gane, Amy Vegh, Katelyn Walker and Taya Schubert, responded particularly well.

He said his team is well-aware of the challenge presented by the Blue Devils, but the reward of a win will mean avoiding the stress of a do-or-die play-in match as the region’s seventh qualifier on Thursday.

“It is a stressful and challenging game that we would be happy to avoid this year,” Jamieson said.

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