Cougars roar to soccer title

Humberto Aspillaga did what all good coaches do — he used his best player to his team’s ultimate advantage Saturday.

Lindsay Thurber defender Kristi Lem

Lindsay Thurber defender Kristi Lem

Cougars 2 Raiders 1

Humberto Aspillaga did what all good coaches do — he used his best player to his team’s ultimate advantage Saturday.

The Notre Dame Cougars sideline boss moved Cory Van der Voort into an offensive role in the second half of the Central Alberta High School Soccer League girls’ championship final at RDC and the switch paid off big time. Van der Voort pulled the Cougars even with the Lindsay Thurber Raiders 28 minutes into the second half, and Kelsey Paetz scored the winner two minutes later as Notre Dame posted a 2-1 victory.

“Cory, the best player in the game, was playing defensive. We changed it for her to go forward and she scored the first goal,” said Aspillaga, the first-year Cougars girls’ coach.

The Cougars fell 2-0 to the Raiders in regular-season play and Lindsay Thurber was poised to defend its league title when Melissa McLellan scored in the final minute of the first half of Saturday’s final.

“I think the other team was well-coached, as well,” said Aspillaga. “They were playing wide and it’s nice to see in Red Deer that coaches are starting to teach players to play wide and penetrate from the side, all the balls to the middle.”

The Cougars advanced with a semifinal win over the Hunting Hills Lightning, then got to play the championship match in front of a decent gathering at the RDC pitch.

“It’s nice to play and to win a championship in front of all these fans,’ said Aspillaga.

“It’s important to support the soccer in Red Deer, and we’re seeing better and better soccer. I hope that is continuing. I would like to see that support all year, not just three to four weeks into the season.”

Aspillaga was careful not to give himself too much credit.

“It’s not coaching most of the time. We talk about coaching and winning, but it’s not the coaches, it’s the players,” he said. “As coaches, we can lose a game, but the players are the real winners. Those (girls), they worked very hard. We played two excellent games with the semifinal and the final.

“This (championship win) was well deserved. We moved the ball well to the outside, the wide area. It was a close game, 1-0 starting the second period, but then we were lucky enough to score two goals.”

In the boys’ final, defending champion Lindsay Thurber toppled Notre Dame 3-0 as keeper Brody Slagman not only posted the shutout, but scored once — from his own side of midfield in the 21st minute— and assisted on a header goal by Hayden Slaymaker in the 77th minute.

Jon Wecker netted the other Raiders goal, in the 25th minute.

“We had a little bit of motivation. These guys ruined the perfect season we had going,” said Raiders coach Rene Vandervlis, in reference to a 1-0 regular-season loss to Notre Dame.

“We took them lightly the first time and the kids vowed not to do that today. We were a determined bunch.”

The Hunting Hills Lightning defeated Olds 3-1 in the bronze-medal game as Shane Gasser, Nicu Ruicea and Luis Lima each scored a goal. Barint Kele replied for Olds.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

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