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Cold. Wet. Blustery. Would you expect anything less on opening day of soccer at the U-18 Sony Cup in Fredericton. The Winsloe Charlottetown Royals FC was making their inaugural appearance at the Ladies BMO Club National Championships. But make no mistake; this was not a rookie team without any experience at Nationals. No less than twelve of these young ladies were in St. John’s, Nfld for the 2010 U-18 Championships with PEI rep Winsloe West Royalty Blues. The teams is intent on improving last year’s seventh place finish and have their sight set on competing for a medal come Thanksgiving Day’s placement matches. Overcoming the first obstacle standing in way of their goal may prove to be one of the toughest challenges.
2010 runner up Ontario, represented this year by North London Galaxy, would be opponent number one. The Royals got off to a slow start, appearing mesmerized, perhaps thinking they were playing the LA Galaxy and hoping to catch a glimpse of David Beckham. Emma Kelly was called on to make a couple of early saves to keep the game scoreless. However, in the 14thminute, with Kelly lunging for a ball bouncing dangerously in the box, an Ontario toe made contact just as the ball grazed Kelly’s fingertips and flicked it beyond her reach and into the waiting goal for a one nil lead.
About 20 minutes in the Royals began to shake off their lethargic start but not before Kelly was called upon to make a couple more saves and keep the Galaxy from sending PEI into a black hole they may not get out of. Early forays into the North London half went for naught. Finally, at the 30 minute mark, Melissa Richardson was able to shake a defender and get Winsloe’s first shot on goal. Within minutes Richardson had two more scoring opportunities but was denied on both. The Royals kept pressuring before end of the half but couldn’t bury the equalizer.
The Royals continued their improved play in the second half as striker Whitney Gallant was finally getting her first taste of U-18 action after watching last year’s Championship games from the sidelines on crutches. Claire Cassey continued to impress in the midfield with fine pursuit and dogged determination. Once again Kelly was the star against the Galaxy, making a number of tough saves and gave her side hope, as they tried to solve the riddle of Ontario’s defense. With Winsloe pressing and only 3 minutes to go, a quick counter strike put the Galaxy up by two. Down but not out, a determined PEI squad continued their valiant effort. Some nice passing and footwork was rewarded with a beautiful through ball springing Richardson loose. A tackle just out side the 18 yard box, drawing the Ontario defender a yellow card, nullified the dangerous try. The Island fans held their collective breath as the ensuing Royal’s free kick, a mere 14 inches short of being a penalty kick, just cleared the cross bar. The team from Winsloe Charlottetown wasn’t able to mount another serious challenge in the 90 seconds before the final whistle.
Although disappointed with the result, the ladies are determined to improve upon the outcome in their final three group matches. With an off day Thursday, the Royals will regroup and prepare for Friday's showdown against Alberta, 1 – 0 victors over Nova Scotia in their opening match.
Winsloe Charlottetown Royals FC is also PEI reps at the Men’s U-18 Championships and opened play today versus Quebec. In a very evenly played match, it all came down to two second half goals off a free kick and a penalty kick to sink the Royals. Two yellow cards and automatic ejection to Brandon Cameron left the Island side short handed as they tried to get back on even terms but was not to be. The Royals will be out to revive their medal aspirations when they take on BC in their second game which goes Thursday.
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