In the scorching heat of a sun-soaked August weekend, the Ponoka Storm U13 Girls soccer team etched their names in the annals of Ponoka soccer history. Hosting the Tier 3 outdoor soccer Alberta Provincials, the Storm showcased resilience, determination, and an unyielding spirit that brought them to a triumphant victory on their home turf.
The journey began with a tense opening clash against the KC Trojans from Edmonton. The Storm battled hard but struggled to find their rhythm, settling for a hard-fought 1-1 tie. Head coach Lonny Behm acknowledged the initial struggle.
“The first game was a learning experience. We knew we needed to find our groove and capitalise on opportunities moving forward,” he said.
And find their groove they did. In their second match against EMFC Barcelona, the girls displayed a rejuvenated vigour. Playing with focused determination, they secured a decisive 3-1 win.
“The girls showed remarkable character to bounce back and play the way they’re capable of. It was a turning point,” said Behm.
The climax of the round robin came against their long-standing rivals, RASC from Medicine Hat. A team that had proven a formidable obstacle in past encounters, the Storm were resolute. They showcased their most complete performance, dominating on both ends of the field for a resounding 3-1 victory.
“Beating RASC was more than just a win for us; it was a testament to the growth and progress these girls have made.”
The stage was set for the gold medal showdown against the undefeated NCFC Atletico from Calgary. The final was an emotional rollercoaster, as the Ponoka Storm drew first blood, raising the hopes of their hometown fans. However, NCFC Atletico quickly equalised with a penalty kick. The Storm surged ahead once more, only to be pegged back once again.
As the heat took its toll on the players, the Storm’s exceptional conditioning paid dividends in the gruelling extra time.
“We’ve always prioritized conditioning and mental toughness as a coaching staff, preparing the girls for games like this,” said Behm. “It made all the difference in those critical moments.”
In a game that exemplified resilience, the Storm pushed through the extra time, finally securing the gold medal, with a 3-2 victory.
“This win on home turf is a memory these girls will cherish for a lifetime,” said Behm. “It is special to win provincials, but more special to do that in front of hundreds of supporters.”
This past in-door soccer season the girls captured provincial bronze, while Lethbridge took silver, and Medicine Hat won gold. In this past weekend’s outdoor provincials, Ponoka took gold, while Calgary got silver and Medicine Hat secured bronze.
U13 Boys battle hard in close matchups
The U13 Ponoka Storm Boys battled hard all weekend long in a tough tournament. Alberta Soccer reps considered it one of, if not the closest, Provincial Championship tournaments they have hosted.
Finishers first through eighth, all could have represented in the gold medal finals, with only singular moments and individual plays making the difference, showing just how close the matches were.
In the end, the boys finished eighth at Tier 3, a result they are proud of and they consider better than if they played and medaled at Tier 4 Rural Provincials.
“To be the best you must beat the best; this experience helped every player grow stronger,” said coach Rob McAthur. “We are all so proud of you.”
Parents, volunteers and sponsors
Amidst the cheers and celebrations throughout the weekend, the parents, volunteers, and local sponsors of Ponoka Minor Soccer Association stepped onto the field to orchestrate this event.
“It’s heartening to witness the dedication and commitment of our parents. Their selflessness and hard work were the bedrock of this tournament,” expressed Coach Behm.
Volunteers rallied together to bring the tournament to life, from field marshalling, to providing vital assistance to teams, field set up, coordinating logistics, running a concession, and managing parking.
“The volunteers’ enthusiasm was palpable. Their collective efforts turned the tournament into a well-oiled machine,” said Rob McArthur, Ponoka Minor Soccer president.
Local sponsors stepped up to provide financial support and resources.
“The support we received from our local sponsors was overwhelming,” said Behm. “Their belief in our vision amplified the impact of the tournament.”