Markus Baitinger of U-16 Storm takes a shot at the Stettler net neutralizing the defense players of the opposition during the Ponoka team’s first game in the Sunbreaker tournament in Camrose on Saturday

Markus Baitinger of U-16 Storm takes a shot at the Stettler net neutralizing the defense players of the opposition during the Ponoka team’s first game in the Sunbreaker tournament in Camrose on Saturday

Weather stops surging U-16 Storm

Heavy and wet snow stole the potential first gold medal of the soccer season from Ponoka U-16 Storm

Heavy and wet snow stole the potential first gold medal of the soccer season from Ponoka U-16 Storm, when the organizers cancelled the Sunday games of last weekend’s Sunbreaker tournament in Camrose due to poor shape of the pitches.

Storm U-16 started their first game against Stettler with a solid control of field and kept the ball in their possession for more than two thirds of the play time.

The first goal of the Ponoka boys came in the first half through a free kick by Cameron Walsh, boosting the confidence of the team. In the second period, Storm flexed their muscles even more and intensified their attacks on the Stettler net.  When one of the attacks resulted in a corner kick for the local boys, Rian Van der Westhuizen scored the second goal with a spectacular header by sending ball coming from the cross to the Stettler goal in a fashion worthy of professional level soccer.

The fact that the U-16 Storm was playing their first game as a team was a factor in several scoring opportunities being missed but head coach Gurjit Sandhu said he was proud of his players’ performance in the first game.

In the second game, the Storm took on the Rocky Mountain House, a team bigger in size and with a history of solid performance.  As the game began, the opposition lost no time in making it clear to Ponoka boys that they were up for a challenge: They scored within minutes of the starting whistle and Storm struggled throughout the rest of the first half to equalize.

Things changed, however, when coach Sandhu gave a quick strategy lesson to his players during the break and when the second half started, there was almost a different Storm U-16 on the pitch who were contesting their opponents more cleverly, anticipating their moves and acting accordingly. The change of approach was quick to bring results with Ponoka boys scoring one after another: Markus Baitinger struck twice and the third goal from Zane Fessler declared the final score: 3-1 for Ponoka.

“At half time we talked about how skill alone was not going to win games and we needed to dig deep and work harder than other teams in every game to get results,” said Sandhu after the game.

“The guys did exactly that and we controlled the second half which was played mostly in Rocky Mountain House’s end and got the three goals and then played a very solid defensive game.”

Sandhu said the goalkeeper Justin Hyink also had a great part in the winning scores over the weekend as his big saves allowed the team to achieve the winning scores.

U-16 Storm was supposed to play the winner of the Camrose-Wetaskiwin game for the gold medal on Sunday, but the games were rescheduled due to the weather.

Camrose-Wetaskiwin game is now scheduled for next Tuesday, May 13 and Ponoka Storm will play against the winner in their next scheduled league game, if they win in the league game, they will also win the championship medal for the tournament.

Ponoka U-14 team also participated in the Camrose tournament and they were matched with two of the strongest teams participating in the tournament: Camrose and Lacombe.

Ponoka boys lost 5-0 to Camrose in their first game and 2-0 to Lacombe in their last game.

Noah Rowland of Ponoka U-14 played a total of four games on Saturday, two for his own team and two as substitute for the U-16 team who were shorthanded for the weekend.