By Woodard, Dale on October 29, 2019.
The Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s soccer team has already made some history.
Now, they’d like to make a little more.
The Kodiaks downed the Red Deer Kings 2-0 in the gold medal game of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference provincials Sunday night at NAIT in Edmonton to earn the team the first men’s banner in program history.
Of course, just making the gold medal game ensured the Kodiaks their season isn’t done yet. They’ll look to make a memorable season even more memorable as they head to Oshawa, Ont. for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship Nov. 6-9, looking for the Canadian title as well.
They won’t be heading to nationals, but the Kodiak women’s team brought home a medal game as well, defeating the SAIT Trojans 1-0 in the bronze medal Sunday for their second medal in as many years.
However, the women’s team came close to a nationals berth as well, but dropped a 1-0, double-overtime heart-breaker to the Concordia College Thunder in the semifinal Saturday.
On the men’s side, the Kodiaks cemented their trip to Oshawa simply by making the gold medal game Sunday following a 2-1 win over the nationally second-ranked NAIT Ooks in the semifinals on Saturday.
Still, there was the matter of bringing home the Kodiak men’s first ACAC championship at hand.
“We had made it to nationals,” said Kodiaks co-coach Sean Carey. “We just had to finish the job (Sunday). We’re bringing a banner home.”
But first, there was some celebrating to be done Sunday in Edmonton before trekking back home Monday.
“Oh my goodness, they are absolutely elated,” said Carey Sunday night. “You can’t get the trophy and the banner away from them. They’re running around with it everywhere. It’s just a huge deal for everybody involved in this program.”
“For our coaching staff it’s a massive deal for them to finally get rewarded for all the hard work they put in.”
Having won bronze earlier in the day, the Kodiak women joined in on the haul.
“We’re bringing two provincial medals home,” said Carey. “It’s never been done in the history of the program before. We’re here to build a legacy. We want to bring medals home every year and go to nationals. We want to be that powerhouse from the south and we’re taking those steps in the right direction.”
Owen Beers scored in the first half and Jimmy Bukuru added the other in the second half in the gold medal game against the Kings.
“It went well,” said Carey. “I don’t think we played our best game. (Saturday’s) game was definitely our best game of the year. (Sunday’s) conditions were really tough. The wind played a major factor in the game.”
Bukuru’s goal in the 81st minute provided a little insurance and came off a perfect cross from captain Ben Knight.
“Ben didn’t give up on the ball and Jimmy what was there to put that one away,” said Carey.
Kodiaks goaltender Cody Ferguson stopped all three shots he faced in the gold medal game.
They Kodiaks earned their spot in the gold medal game by handing the Ooks their first loss of the season in the semifinal Saturday. NAIT topped the North in the regular season at 12-0.
Playing without Braydon Jetten, who got a red card in Friday’s win over The Kings University Eagles, the rest of the roster picked up the slack as Beers and Knight scored in the first half.
“They left everything out there yesterday,” said Carey. “We said that big games need big players in our big players stepped up yesterday. They were absolutely phenomenal. The whole team played fantastic.”
But Carey pointed to midfielder Kenzel Aarts-Roman as the Kodiaks unsung hero against the Ooks.
“We put Kenzel on what we deemed to be NAIT’s best player and play maker and Kenzel just took him out of the game. He just worked tirelessly (Saturday). That basically took away their whole distribution and they weren’t able to get anything going. We managed to get the goal at the right time in the first half when we had the wind and we just defended for our lives in the second half.”
Ferguson turned aside four of five shots for the Kodiaks in the semifinal win.
Like the men’s team, the Kodiak women didn’t come away empty-handed in their medal game, but it was the game before that was equally memorable.
Facing a Thunder team that was 11-1 in the regular season, the Kodiaks held their opponents to a scoreless draw past the 100-minute mark before Concordia’s Rebecca Leavell scored on an own goal.
“We were right there with them and we had opportunities to beat them,” said Carey. “We had some chances and we should’ve scored at least a couple of goals and you get hurt by those teams if you don’t score. It was heartbreaking the way they got their goal because it was an own goal. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls, they battled and battled. Concordia was on an 11-game win streak and we took them to overtime and we should’ve beat them. It just shows where our girls are at, we could’ve been taking home two banners this weekend.”
Kodiaks goaltender Micaela Stone made six saves in the loss.
Despite the tough loss Saturday, the Kodiaks got back up for Sunday’s bronze medal game.
Darrianne Holmes scored in the 22nd minute and Stone put up a three-save shutout to clinch the bronze medal.
“We thought we were the better team, definitely,” said Carey. “The first half we played excellent.”
There was some rough stuff at the final whistle, resulting in red cards to Kodiaks Ailsa Fallows and Bryce Sherring.
The duo will miss the first two games next season as a result.
The late rough stuff aside, the bronze medal set up the first of two medals for Lethbridge.
“I’m so proud of those girls because it took some time to get up for the bronze metal and they understood the importance of bringing back a medal,” said Carey. “Our leaders were true warriors today and they battled through a tense game.”