For the first time ever the Red Deer Renegades had one of their teams compete in a provincial final at the tier I level.
The U17 Renegades traveled to Edmonton where they competed for gold in the four-day tournament but ultimately lost in the championship game.
The girls went toe-to-toe with Calgary West United but lost 3-0 on Sunday in a historic game for the Renegades.
Head coach John Leslie said this year Alberta Soccer let Alberta Youth Soccer League teams compete at the Tier I level so heading into the tournament the Renegades knew it’d be stiff competition.
“They did fantastic,” he said. “Getting to that final was amazing and ultimately they gave it everything they had in that final game.”
The accomplishment of making it to the finals was accentuated by competing against teams from more prominent programs.
“Even though you believe in them and you know they can get there they beat the top Edmonton team in league play and the top Calgary team in the standings,” he said. “They knocked off two giants on the way to the gold medal.”
This year they merged the 2006 and 2007-born players to form a team with the goal of making it to nationals.
The Renegades finished third in Edmonton’s minor soccer league during the regular season and once they made provincials they went 2-2.
They defeated the Edmonton Scottish United Soccer Club 2-1 followed by a 2-0 shutout win over the Calgary South West United Soccer Club.
In their third game prior to the provincial championship, the Renegades rested some of the starting lineup leading to a 1-0 loss to the Sherwood Park Phoenix.
The Renegades proceeded to fall to Calgary in the final but were happy to come away with the silver medal.
“When we talked to the girls after Calgary was very technically proficient and tactically they were disciplined,” he said.
“One thing the girls pointed out was how physical and fierce they were but also how friendly they were… It was a pleasure to play against them and they’re going to represent Alberta well at nationals.”
Leslie explained the provincial appearance was the Renegades’ first at the Tier I level since the U13 girls went to the finals at the Tier I level.
What made this team special over past Renegades teams he said is many of them have played with each other since the grassroots level.
“It’s a group of girls that care so deeply for one another and they’re committed to each other,” Leslie said.
“They were able to compete at a level higher than where they could have been because of that care for one another.”
The Renegades will lose 12 players as they move on to the 18U level but they hope to retain the majority of the team for next year.
“To see the girls on the podium this year was pretty special and heard that from so many people who’ve grown up watching these girls. To have these girls still together and doing this at 16-17 years old is pretty awesome.”