CHARLOTTETOWN – A highly anticipated matchup between the Charlottetown Rural Raiders and KISHROA did not disappoint.
The two teams met for the third year in a row to decide the P.E.I. School Athletic Association Senior A Girls Soccer League championship. The teams split the first two meetings, with Rural winning the 2015 title in overtime, and the combined team from Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School and Kinkora Regional High School prevailing in 2016.
The rubber match was played at UPEI on Saturday morning, and penalty kicks were required to decide the outcome after a scoreless draw through 90 minutes of regulation time and two 15-minute overtime periods. When all was said and done, Rural prevailed 3-1 in penalty kicks to regain the championship banner and hand KISHORA its first loss since the 2015 gold-medal match.
“It was a wonderful game,” commented KISHORA head coach Donald Mulligan. “I felt both teams played great, and we were on our heels for parts of the game and Rural was on its heels for parts of the game.”
An interesting statistic is that Rural has never led versus KISHORA in regulation time in the last three gold-medal games.
Before an appreciative crowd at the UPEI turf field, Rural keeper Kiara LaBobe took over in penalty kicks. LaBobe made two saves and one shot missed the net as Rural outscored KISHORA 3-1.
“I was really nervous,” admitted LaBobe. “That was my first time actually ever doing that, but I have good confidence.”
Gracie Burns gave Rural a 1-0 lead after a LaBobe save, and Casey Currie made it 2-0 on the Raiders’ third shot. Shannan Hill brought KISHORA to within 2-1, but Maggie Rae Dennis followed with the clinching goal.
“I felt confident going in,” acknowledged Mulligan. “(Saturday) wasn’t our day, but give full credit to Rural, they played a tremendous game.”
When asked her approach in penalty kicks, LaBobe explained, “I don’t look at them (shooters), I look at the ground and the circle where the ball is, and I look at what angle their feet are at and hope I save it.”
Both teams had their chances to score in regulation time, but LaBobe and KISHORA keeper Lexie Murphy both came up with clutch saves to keep it scoreless. Abby Christopher was just inches away from giving KISHORA a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute as she wired the ball off the cross bar.
Rural’s best chance in regulation time came 20 minutes into the second half off a free kick, and Murphy had to make a point-blank save.
“We were undefeated until penalty kicks of the championship game, so that’s a good season in anybody’s book,” reflected Mulligan. “We have a great mixture of Grades 10s, 11s and 12s, and I hope we are back next year.”
Mulligan praised the strong leadership provided by the Grade 12s, especially co-captains Shannan Hill and Madeline Hamill (KRHS). Mulligan added losing Hamill to an injury seven minutes into overtime was a big blow.