They came, they saw and they conquered.
The Grade 6 boys soccer team from Kugluktuk High School made it two in a row as they successfully defended their title at Junior Super Soccer in Yellowknife on April 28 and for the second year in a row, they beat the same team to do it.
The boys knocked off William McDonald School of Yellowknife by a score of 3-1 and if you want even more similarities from 2018, Kugluktuk came into the final having lost the round-robin meeting between the two teams.
“We lost to them, 3-2, in the group stage,” said coach Liam Clarke, one of Kugluktuk’s coaches. “It was just like it was last year: they beat us early, we meet in the final and we beat them in the final.”
Clarke said the boys had a bit of a slow start to the final but adrenaline is a wonderful thing, especially when you lose the first meeting to the same team.
“We were missing one of our players due to a stomach bug so that put us down right off the start,” he said. “The boys knew what it was like to lose and it’s not a good feeling but they went out in the final and played hard to win it. They performed really well and took the chances when they came.”
In their earlier playoff games, the boys utilized the two-touch system off of restarts, where one player would tap the ball followed by another player taking a direct shot on goal.
Clarke said they changed things up once they faced off with the Inuvik Wolves.
“Inuvik was a very good attacking team,” he said. “We switched it up and got the boys to start doing basic, easy passes and move the ball around more. We wanted to instill that in the boys so they knew where to pass to, when to pass and who to pass to. They executed it very well.”
Clarke said there are plans to head back to Yellowknife next year to try for the three-peat but it will be without him as he’s leaving the community following the end of this school year.
He will get one more chance to coach the boys as several of them will be going back to Yellowknife later this month for the Grade 4-5 Super Soccer Tournament.
“Five of our 10 boys are actually in Grade 5 so this will be the first time they’ll be playing at their age level,” he said.
Rankin Inlet also had skin in the game in Yellowknife with both of their Grade 8 teams making it to their respective finals. The boys team were soundly beaten by William McDonald but that could be put down to sheer exhaustion.
Just to get to the final, they had to beat St. Pat’s High School of Yellowknife in a grueling semifinal, one which ended up going to sudden-death extra time and when that didn’t solve anything, a penalty shootout. The shootout ended up going 10 rounds before Rankin Inlet was able to prevail.
Ryan Nichols, the tournament’s organizer, said he had no doubt had they been able to get some more rest, it would have been a much more competitive final.
“They literally had about 30 or 40 minutes to rest up and play,” he said. “That’s not enough time, especially after a semifinal like that.”
The girls team, meanwhile, took on William McDonald in their final and it was a nip-and-tuck affair that went right down to the wire. In the end, William McDonald was a bit too much as they won out, 2-1.
Rankin Inlet’s Erin Kaludjak said it was a tough loss but she’s proud of the team’s effort.
“It was still a fun game,” she said. “We’ve never made it this far before so I’m happy.”
It was a physical game as well with plenty of bumps and bruises on the players following the game.
“There were some yellow cards, about four of five,” said Kelsie Kaludjak.
“I had one of them,” added Erin Kaludjak proudly.
Both girls have now won two silver medals at Junior Super Soccer and would like to turn them into a gold next year, if they get the chance to come back.
“I know Erin can go back but I don’t know if I’m going to be playing next year,” said Kelsie Kaludjak.