Despite losing their last league game of the regular season, the Ponoka men’s Storm still clinched a semi-finals playoff berth set for Sunday, Aug. 16.
Their final regular league game was Monday, Aug. 3 in Wetaskiwin against Manluk where Ponoka lost 3-0, explained coach Lonny Behm. The pressure to win was not as high for Ponoka, who managed to secure their semi-finals match three games prior, he explained.
With less pressure, a short roster and three key players with penalty issues, the Storm had to tread lightly as they played Wetaskiwin. “We couldn’t play it too aggressive,” said Behm.
Another issue the team faced was playing in a larger than normal soccer pitch. Behm said the Wetaskiwin field they played in is the largest a soccer pitch that can be built to FIFA standards. Wetaskiwin’s field is 12 yards wider and 10 yards longer than Ponoka’s.
“We came out strong the first five to 10 minutes,” said Behm.
But Manluk’s experience with the bigger field created a tough defensive game for Ponoka. By the end of the first half Ponoka was down 1-0. Behm made some strategic changes to adjust to the larger pitch and he said Storm players managed a few attempts on Manluk’s goalie but those attempts did not result in a goal.
Manluk managed two more goals before the end of the game.
For their semi-finals game, the Storm will play the winner of the game between Camrose and Wetaskiwin Diablos, said Behm, who intends to keep practising in upcoming weeks.
“We want to just up the intensity in our practices,” explained Behm.