BY RYAN WELLICOME
The U-12 Boys Lacombe Panthers #1 defeated U-12 Boys Lacombe Panthers #3 3-0 on last month to take the Central Alberta Soccer Association (CASA) U-12 league gold medal.
“They worked hard to get the win,” said Coach Chris Dunlap. “It was just exciting to have a successful year.”
Players Kaelen Irish, Daniel Williford and Ryder MacLeod all put the ball past the iron to help give their team the win.
Dunlap attributed the win to strong defence, hustle, backchecking from their forwards and midfielders and a stellar performance from goalkeeper Noah Monchamp who shut out the competition.
“They had a few chances but not many,” said Dunlap. “We were able to just shut them down.”
Dunlap said the win meant a lot to the players as it was the first time some of them have even won anything major.
Especially to Dunlap’s son Ethan whose medal was his first gold and second medal in a major tournament.
Chris has coached Ethan for four years now and enjoys being part of his son’s minor sporting career.
Dunlap also said that the team has bonded over the season and that has greatly contributed to the team’s overall success.
‘They (are) a good bunch of kids who really all got along and came and had fun every night,” said Dunlap. “To be honest, winning was very secondary.”
Chris said bonding occurred during games and practice but off the field as well.
The team had a few ‘get-togethers’ to encourage friendships in addition to a friendly tournament with the other two U-12 Boys Panthers, complete with a family barbeque.
“(The team) was still learning but we were trying to make sure they had lots of fun,” said Chris. “We are keeping it light.”
The win provided them with some sweet revenge after losing the final in the season’s opening tournament to the Panthers #3.
Lacombe 1 finished the season second in the standings with 24 points in 11 games with seven wins, one loss and three ties.
They also finished with the third-best goal differential at 22 and the lowest goals against in the league at 14.
Daniel Williford was at the top of the team in scoring with 24 goals to his name and goaltender Noah Monchamp received four shutouts, including his CASA gold medal winning performance.
The U-12 Boys Panthers were divided into three teams this season to accommodate the larger number of players.
The teams are divided as equally as possible and are not based on skill level.
Another team is currently being put together to compete in the tier-three provincial tournament, later in July.
It’s a tournament that there are high hopes for.
Other Lacombe Panthers teams have been excelling on the Central Alberta stage as well.
The U-12 Boys Panthers #3 won gold in the B tournament to go along with their silver from the league final.
Also, the U-14 Boys, U-16 Girls and U-18 Boys all captured gold in their respective leagues.