Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on Prince Edward Island teams competing at soccer club nationals from Oct. 3 to 8.
If there was ever a less conventional way of reaching a national tournament, Paul Evoy hasn’t seen it.
The Sherwood Parkdale Rangers boys under-14 soccer team’s co-coach is preparing his crew to head to Vaughan, Ont., after a whirlwind season that somehow worked out for the best.
The Rangers finished the regular season in third place, before knocking off second-place West Prince in a thrilling playoff game.
After the Rangers went up 4-2 with 15 minutes left in the game, West Prince rallied to tie the game.
“You could hear the West Prince crowd, just waiting for the third straight goal to go in, to go up 5-4,” said Evoy. “I thought we were done.”
But his team never gave up and with seven minutes to go, Rangers player Drew Ferguson netted his first goal if the year to give Sherwood Parkdale a lead they would not relinquish.
In the final versus RC United, Evoy’s team crawled back from a 2-0 deficit late in the first half to knock off the league’s top-ranked team.
That determination could give them an advantage during this week’s nationals, Evoy said.
“Their heart (sets them apart). They didn’t put their heads down when it was 2-0. They kept going, and you can’t teach kids that. It’s in them or it isn’t.”
Another advantage they will have is their schedule, said the co-coach.
“If I had to make the draw, I couldn’t have done better.“
They will be in a group with Yukon and Alberta, and will need a win against either team to advance to the top eight. If they do move on, they will face one of Saskatchewan, Manitoba or Nova Scotia.
“We could potentially be in the final four, because we don’t have to face B.C., Quebec, or the two Ontario teams,” Evoy said.
With the draw playing in their favour, the team’s expectations are high.
“We’re not going there to get kicked around, so who knows? Anything could happen,” Evoy said. “That’s why they play the game.”
With their first game against Yukon Thursday drawing closer, it’s not just the kids who are getting hyped up.
“They’re excited,” Evoy said. “I’m excited, and I’m an old guy.”
The following is the Sherwood Parkdale Rangers under-14 nationals:
11 a.m. Sherwood Parkdale Rangers vs. Yukon
1 p.m. Sherwood Parkdale Rangers vs. Alberta