Both the men and women’s soccer teams came away with medals at the ACAC Championships this past weekend in Grande Prairie. The women’s team went undefeated for the second straight weekend, prevailing over the Concordia Thunder 4-1 to claim another championship. NAIT’s men lost in the semifinals to the South Division’s top seeded Lethbridge Kodiaks 4-1 but prevailed in the bronze medal game by that same score over the SAIT Trojans.
The ladies headed into the championships with an impressive 46 wins and only three losses and a tie in the past five years in ACAC regular-season action. Along with their impressive record, they have claimed post-season championships in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Fifth-year forward Kayla Michaels scored a Texas hat trick with all four goals. She had also scored the lone goal in the semifinal win over the Grande Prairie Wolves. This adds to her total of 18 from the regular season.
“What can I say about Kayla,” said head coach Carole Holt. “She has had such an impact on our team and conference in the two years she has been here. I can’t imagine what she would have done to the record books if she had been here for all five years of her eligibility.”
Holt also noted that her work ethic in a game is incredible, as Michaels works hard to score the goals but she also sets up just as many.
“Grande Prairie had her man-marked very closely and she did not have a lot of space,” Holt said. “But the one opportunity she had, she scored. I think more importantly though, she is just a great person – it really has been a pleasure working with her.”
In the men’s semifinal loss, Igi Broda had the lone goal for the Ooks and head coach Charles O’Toole said the team still performed very well, despite the result. The Ooks outshot the Kodiaks 24-9 and had the majority of ball possession but the team had difficulty finishing.
“The team performed … up to their potential,” O’Toole said.
“Unfortunately, soccer can be a cruel game and Saturday’s provincial semifinal proved to be one of those days. I believe we were the better team and deserved to be in the final. Had we capitalized, that would have been the case.”
In the bronze medal match, Broda opened the scoring and Etern Mortotsi and Luis de la Torre Navarro notched the other markers for the Ooks.
“I am very proud of our boys.” O’Toole said. “We improved on our league record over last year, reduced our goals against and were able to have four players make the North Conference team. We now have to regroup and start to rebuild for next year.”
The woman’s team leaves on Nov. 9 to Ontario for the CCAA Championships. NAIT enters the tournament as the second seed and faces the ACAA champion MVSU Mystics. Mystics star Danielle MacDonald has 18 goals of her own, which should make for an interesting battle with Michaels. The Ooks are hoping for redemption from last year, where they lost 3-0 in the final to Quebec powerhouse Garneau.
“We will have a couple of sessions to fine-tune things, but it’s really about rest and recovery as well as providing some time for the players to get caught up on their school work,” said Holt.