With Kasey Welch and Kristin Blair controlling the middle of the field, and Amanda Coffey converting on the offensive end, the U17 Jr. Rhinos earned a hard-fought trip to the finals of The Toronto Cup. The tournament helped heal the wounds endured while playing in the rugged Upstate Premier League and brought a smile back to Coach Rene Tadal’s face.
The Rhinos opened against Cookstown, and Welch wasted little time adjusting to her new position. Needing to bolster play in the middle of the field Tadal moved his defender to an inside mid position, and the adjustment paid early dividends. Welch and Blair controlled the middle third and dictated the tempo of the game. Blair and Coffey each had a pair of shots on net as the Rhinos outshot Cookstown by a ten to one margin in the first half.
The momentum carried over to the second half when seven minutes in, Captain Jess Graus converted a ‘Cup of’ Coffey cross for the eventual game-winner. The tally marked the third time this season the teammates connected on a header goal. Angela Gatti provided energy from the bench before heading off as a witness to nuptials. Coffey added an insurance goal four minutes later on a pass from Kelly Daly, and the Rhinos won the opener two nil.
Coffey’s direct kick nineteen minutes in tied the second game of the tournament against the United Markham Soccer Club. The host team proved to be too much as they responded with three goals in the first twenty-two minutes of the second half. Graus converted a PK, but a feverish rally by the Rhinos fell short. Both Welch and Daly found the goal posts and crossbars to be not to their liking as all efforts to the tie the game were thwarted.
The Rhinos took out their frustrations on East York. Tadal’s troop connected on six first-half goals before settling into playing possession for the second half. Maura Wojak started the scoring as she poured a little sugar on a ‘Cup of’ Coffey cross one minute into the game. [youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=mGL4btEIoTo]Wojak’s volley was caught by the East York goalie as she landed behind the goal line. Three minutes later Daly took a pass from Emily Wyse, sped past the defense, and found the back of the net.
Wyse connected two minutes later as she received the benefit of some hard work in the middle of the field. Kasey Welch fought to keep possession before the ball squirted loose to the open Wyse who drilled it into the net. Two minutes later Jordan Pringle took a pass from Bre Smith and beat the East York goalie. Then Graus led Abbey Gotham into the open for a break-away goal. Ellie Hamilton rounded out the scoring. The outside mid controlled a 50/50 ball and made a rush up the field before placing a shot in the opposite side-netting. Final score: Rhinos 6 East York 0.
Rochester finished pool play against the Oshawa Kicks. Both teams notched five shots in a scoreless first half. ‘Cup of’ Coffey found Cece Gotham with a well-placed cross, but the Oshawa net-minder was up to the task. The Rhinos dominated the second half firing repeated shots on the Oshawa net. Daly beat the Kick defense time after time only to come away without a goal. Abbey Gotham’s impossible angle shot beat the Oshawa goalie and caromed off the post. Instant replay would have been beneficial to see if the ball crossed the goal line. The staunch defense of Graus, Leah Wilklow, and Jess Jones held the Kicks without any shots in the second half helping ‘AT’ Taylor to her third shutout of the tourney.
In the finals the Rhinos could not solve the ‘Markham mystery’ as the host team won the Toronto Cup. The United scored two first-half goals en route to a three nil victory.
The Rhinos earned their second runner-up placing of the season. Back in March Tadal’s squad qualified for the championship of the Rush Cup of Virginia Beach. The Rhinos won the Northern Ohio Cup in May before a strong showing in the Empire Cup. The team’s efforts earned a spot in the Columbia Invitational. The trip to the land of Kilometers and Celsius helped the Rhinos bring back that lovin’ feelin’.[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=7827EMkm5ko]