Pilots Grounded By Polars In Regional Final

Friday, November 10, 2023

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(MINNEAPOLIS) – They say, “the only thing harder than winning it once, is winning it twice”, and for the Providence Pilots, a return to the NCCAA National Women’s Soccer Championships to defend their 2022 National Championship, was not in the cards. They were defeated 3-1 by the Crown Polars in the North Division’s Regional Final on Wednesday afternoon.

It was a tightly contested opening half between two evenly matched teams. The Pilots came into the final through a 2-1 semifinal victory over the NCU Rams, while the Polars advanced on by way of a 6-0 win over the Faith Eagles.

Though play went back and forth, only the Polars were able to unlock the Providence defense and for any significant scoring chances. Crown created four shots on target in the opening 45-minutes, with Pilots’ goalkeeper Bella Geith (Winnipeg, MB) turning away all four.

Four chances would turn into four goals in the final period, with all but one counting for the Polars. A counterattack in the 56th minute created a 3 v 3 opportunity for Crown. Lexi Shreve made the decision to carry the ball, despite options to pass and it proved to be the right decision, as she finished with her left foot to open the scoring.

Five minutes later the Polars made it 2-0. Ella Hollander stood over the ball on a Crown free-kick from just outside the Providence 18-yard box and near the touchline. Rather than playing into the area, she spotted Abigail Shull at the top of the box who unleashed a second goal from 20 yards out, past Geith and into the roof of the Pilot’s net.

In the 77th minute, Shreve would collect her brace. After receiving a throw-in, Shull delivered a pin-point cross onto the boot of Shreve who executed with a two-touch finish, making the score 3-0 and all but eliminating the Pilots.

Providence continued to commit players forward and finally, in the 88th minute, a direct dribble from Serena Negrich (Burnaby, BC) forced a Crown foul in the penalty area and sent Paige Heide (Steinbach, MB) to the spot. The Pilots’ captain was clinical, but the goal would prove to be only a consolation prize, as the contest ended 3-1 to the Polars.

The loss ends what was an excellent season for the Pilots despite their National Championships aspirations being dashed on both sides of the international border.

Prior to Tuesday’s semifinal match, Tory Walker was recognized as the North Region’s Coach of the Year: an award he can add to the MCAC Coach of the Year honour that he picked up earlier this month in Manitoba. In addition, Negrich, Heide and Sarah Friesen (Blumenort, MB) were selected to the All-Region Team and Ava Temple received the honour of being named the NCCAA North Region’s Most Valuable Player.

Author - Athletics