It is becoming increasingly challenging for Ponoka Storm FC to pursue a hat-trick of double-trophy league and cup championships in the Battle River Men’s Soccer League competition as the team continues to struggle in putting together an adequate roster for their games.
In their latest challenge, Storm hosted the once mighty Manluk of Wetaskiwin, whom they dethroned in the last two consecutive seasons and could avoid defeat only in the second half of the game by coming from 2-0 behind to tie the score at the end of the 90 minutes: 2-2.
With no assigned coach to guide the team this year, the struggling Ponoka team appeared in total disarray in the first half of the game when their passes were inaccurate and they failed to keep the ball in their possession with visiting Manluk players gaining the ball every time they contested a position.
Manluk’s pressure paid off when they scored from close range just into the first 15 minutes of the game. About 10 minutes later, in a clear miscommunication between the Ponoka defense and the goalkeeper, the ball just rolled into the hosts’ net giving Manluk a 2-0 lead.
During the halftime break, there was a lot of strategy discussion among the Storm players, which seemed to bring some results as the second half started. Ponoka began to pass more accurately and took better care of the ball when they had the possession.
About 15 minutes in the second half, quick thinking Gurjit Sandhu of the Storm appeared out of nowhere to score the first goal for the hosts when the Manluk goalkeeper dropped the ball just in front of the net after having almost grabbed it from a long range shot.
Following Ponoka’s score, both sides appeared to step up their games, hosts aiming to equalize and visitors trying to solidify their lead. In the end, it was the Storm who managed to bring balance to the score when Eric Ehschied sealed the deal: 2-2.
Storm FC host Diablos on Sunday but the game time has yet to be finalized as next weekend’s provincial U18 boys’ and U18 girls’ championships will keep all the pitches in town busy beginning from Friday night.
Provincials promising a lot of excitement
The town will be welcoming hundreds of players, their parents, coaches and referees from around the province as nine girls’ teams and 12 boys’ teams will play their hearts out for the bragging rights of owning the provincial gold medals for the 2016 season.
On the boys’ side of the tournament, Ponoka Storm will be representing the second zone of Central Alberta association area while Lacombe will be playing the as the first zone’s competitor. In the round robin, Ponoka boys will be playing in the second pool against North West Central and Tri County teams.
On the girls’ side, Ponoka Storm will be playing as the representative of the first zone of the Central Alberta association area while Camrose girls will play for the first zone. In round robin, Ponoka girls will compete against North West Central and Tri County teams just like the boys.
Ponoka boys will play their first game against North West Central on Friday, July 8 at 6 p.m. at the high school field. The girls will also face North West at the same time at the Lucas Heights west field.
The full round robin schedule for girls is available at http://competitions.albertasoccer.com/schedule.php?league_id=64934.
The same schedule for boys can be found at http://competitions.albertasoccer.com/schedule.php?league_id=64930.