(Photo submitted)

4 Ponoka soccer teams compete at Caledonia Cup

By Rob McArthur

Ponoka Minor Soccer Association

Over the weekend of June 10 and 11, a massive storm rolled into South Edmonton and Leduc that left a mark that will last for some time. Edmonton Scottish United Soccer Club hosted their annual Caledonia Cup Tier 3 tournament and Ponoka Storm sent four teams to the big event; coach Christoph Dittmar’s U11 Girls, coach Matt McArthur’s U11 Boys, coach Lonny Behm’s U13 Girls, and coach Rob McArthur’s U13 Boys.

For two of the teams, the U11 Girls and the U13 Boys, they were stepping up to a new level of play, graduating from Tier 4 to take on the new challenge of Tier 3. For the other two teams, the U11 Boys and the U13 Girls, they were showing that they were exactly where they belonged, confirming the move both Behm and Matt made to have their teams play Tier 3 at the beginning of the season.

All four teams had games early Saturday morning. Results were mixed, with the two U11 teams running into stiff competitors from seasoned soccer clubs in the city. The matches were both losses for Ponoka, but were positive with regard to experience gained. Meanwhile, the U13 Boys lost a close match to the top Tier 3 team in Edmonton, 3-1. For the boys, it was their first match at the Tier 3 level. The U13 Girls, early and often showed why they are one of the top teams in the province, dispatching one team after another throughout the day. While the two U11 teams had difficulty making headway against the experienced Tier 3 squads, the U13 Boys bounced back from their earlier loss dispatching the host team, Scottish, in a back and forth match, 6-4.

As play continued on Sunday, the U13 Girls continued their display of dominance, winning their third in a row, while the U13 Boys lost by a razor thin margin, 4-3. Meanwhile indoors, under the Dome, both of the U11 teams continued to play against tough competition; a glitch in scheduling, actually had the U11 Boys playing against Tier 2 teams. As morning turned to afternoon, air quality issues in the area due to wildfires, brought about the cancelation of the remainder of the matches outdoors, ending the tournament for both U13 teams. Despite the cancellations, Behm’s U13 Girls stood head and shoulder above their competition in the standings and captured tournament gold.

The decision to take the step up to the next level of competition, moving from Tier 4 to Tier 3, came after much deliberation amongst the coaches and in following the lead of Ponoka Soccer’s director of player and coach development, Behm.

“Ponoka had to find a competitive balance. We have excelled within (CASA), and quite frankly, it was getting increasingly difficult to create competitive pathways for our kids to follow in the leagues available to them. There is a natural progression that players go through, that requires players and teams to test themselves. Most of our players, especially those born in 2010 and 2011 have been playing together a long time. The greatest opportunity for player development is to reach for the next level, thus the move to Tier 3,” said Behm.

Rob, who coaches the U13 Boys and also serves as PMSA’s club president noted, “Some of the boys were a little bit apprehensive about playing against some of these big clubs. The Caledonia Cup is one of the biggest tournaments in Alberta, but more significant is the quality of teams that usually attend. The best clubs in Calgary and Edmonton play there. It has been a full calendar year since the group of boys I coach have lost a game in CASA, including last year’s outdoor season, the indoor season and up to now. We are well past needing to push to this next level.”

Ponoka Minor Soccer Association is hosting Tier 3 U13 Provincials this coming August.

Speaking of the upcoming tournament, Rob stated, “While PMSA has successfully hosted Tier 4 Rural Provincials three times and has partnered in hosting College Showcases, we have never hosted a soccer tournament of this calibre. The best Tier 3 teams in the province will be here. They will be travelling from cities like Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton. Ponoka is small, but pound for pound, we’re the strongest association in Alberta. We intend to make some noise.”

Local soccer enthusiasts are encouraged to follow Ponoka Soccer on social media.