By Adam Eisenbarth
The U18 soccer team battled it out for one final weekend in an effort to reach provincials.
For some it was their last competitive weekend of soccer, and while the team didn’t advance, they put up a good fight.
The team opened their weekend in Lacombe with a loss to Stettler 4-2 but managed to defeat Rocky Mountain House 3-2.
With Rocky losing to Stettler on June 19, Rimbey advanced to the finals to take on Stettler again the next day.
It was a hard fought battle and the game was tied 3-3 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Rimbey players and coaches were not pleased when a questionable penalty shot was awarded to Stettler. They scored and tacked on another to hand Rimbey a 5-3 loss.
With the win Stettler has advanced to St. Albert for provincials, July 9 to 11.
Despite the frustrating finish, manager Desiree Vandenhoven was proud of the team.
“There was the one call in the last 10 minutes kind of put them down a little bit and the couldn’t recuperate from it but overall we ended up with a couple really good weekends.”
Prior to the provincial qualifying weekend, Rimbey came away with an impressive silver medal in the Midnight Classic in Camrose.
Aaron Shukin was happy with the team in his final season of minor soccer.
“We were the most improved team in the league for sure. At the start of the year we weren’t doing too well but by the end we ended up beating Rocky and came close to going to provincials and came in second in the Midnight Classic.”
Shukin is one of several players who wrapped up their time in minor soccer.
“It’s pretty well been the same group coming up, you get some new players coming in too.”
After 13 years in minor soccer Vandenhoven says it’s sad to see the players go.
“Some of those kids you might not see again for I don’t know how long. They leave town, go to college or university, that part is hard.”
Several players are already lined up for post-secondary school and Vandenhoven hopes they will continue to play the sport beyond minor soccer.
“It’s kind of neat to see when they keep busy with the sport. That’s what we hope.”
With so many players leaving, the U18 team will have a much different look to it next year and while Vandenhoven may not be involved with the team next year, she hopes to see the program continue.
“There is quite a group coming up from the U16. The amount of kids I’m not sure of but I hope they will be able to field another U18 team.”
Soccer in Rimbey has been in a bit of decline in recent years with only four competitive teams this year. They’ve had as many as eight in the past.
“(Baseball) is on the rise a bit again and people travel more. There’s quite a few kids from town that are playing at higher levels in other towns like Red Deer or towards Edmonton so we lose numbers there too.”
The U18 team had a windup to wrap up the season on June 23.
“Some of these kids I’ve been with for 13 years and it’s hard to all of a sudden see them go. You see them grow, not just in soccer but in life and I just wish them the best.”