Merritt United soccer teams shine in Kelowna
While the outcome for the two Merritt U11 soccer teams taking part in the Canada Day long weekend tournament in Kelowna may have been somewhat different on the scoreboard, both Merritt Youth Soccer Association squads represented their organization and community with class and dignity over the course of three days of stiff competition.
The United FC U11 girls, coached by Shelley Moorehead and Jonathan Cooke, more than held their own in their first out-of-town tourney, going 3-1-0 in their four games and taking first place in their division.
In the gold-medal game on Monday, Merritt downed the Kelowna Scorch 3-2 in a thrilling contest that saw the United side lead from start to finish, and avenge an earlier 2-1 loss to the host squad.
“It was certainly not expected,” stated Moorehead of her team’s excellent weekend result. “It was a very pleasant surprise.”
Merritt’s opening game Saturday couldn’t have been any closer as United and the Lions of Kelowna went all the way to a shootout before the Nicola Valley side prevailed 1-0.
United’s second outing on Saturday was quite a bit easier as Merritt prevailed 7-1 over the Rutland Willow Park Merchants.
“I think that we settled the nerves after the first game,” said Moorehead, “and just played with a lot more confidence the rest of the weekend.”
The United coach, who couldn’t remember her team’s goal scorers, was full of praise for her sides’ defensive efforts.
“Our backs and midfielders worked really, really hard,” she said, “and our goalies, Shayla Worrin and Ali Webber, were terrific. Everybody just worked so well to-gether, and never gave up on the ball. It was a terrific team effort.”
The United FC’s U11 boys’ team, coached by Ricardo Veneza, worked every bit as hard on the weekend as their female counterparts, but ran into some incredibly stiff competition from some very elite soccer sides.
In their first game, the United boys fell to the BC Tigers Avalanche from Vancouver 10-1, then succumbed 9-0 to the Sherwood Park Phoenix out of Edmonton in their second tilt on Saturday.
The game but overmatched Merritt squad tried hard in games three and four on Sunday and Monday but lost 11-1 to the Port Moody Selects and 7-1 to the Westside Firestorm to go winless over the weekend.
Despite the one-sided losses, Veneza said that his squad remained positive throughout the tournament and learned a lot.
“The kids took it well, and managed to keep their heads in every game. With each game, I think that we improved - in terms of keeping our shape [formation] and moving the ball quicker.
“Our players have the skills, but just need more coaching in terms of team play.”