Coaches find ways for Sun Devils to thrive

Girls soccer program headed back to provincials for record 18th straight year

Eighteen consecutive provincial appearances would suggest South Delta Secondary is a hotbed for girls soccer. In actuality, it has a lot to do with the creativity and dedication of a couple of longtime volunteer teacher coaches that makes the program thrive.

The Sun Devils will continue their record run at the showcase event later this month after producing two straight wins to open up the Fraser Valley Championships. A 3-1 semi-final loss on Monday afternoon to defending B.C. champion Centennial sends South Delta to Thursday’s third place game against Fleetwood Park.

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Sure there is been some outstanding talent come through Stephen Burns and Brent Sweeney’s program through the years including Olivia Sheppard (Princeton University) and current four-year forward Breanne Gallagher who will be continuing her career at the University of Calgary next fall.  Yet it has more to do with the coaches identifying talent and athleticism that can thrive in various situations, regardless of age and the level they happened to play at in club soccer.

Last season it was Grade 8 twins Kate and Jane McDonald eating up huge minutes in midfield en route to a third place finish at provincials.

“You look at the end of our game today and we had three Grade 8s on the field. We had a Grade 9 silver player matched up against their stud midfielder and really she didn’t get anything today,” said Sweeney. In ways, it’s tricking the girls into believing they can compete at this level.”

The program’s rich tradition doesn’t hurt either.

Prior to last Wednesday’s 1-0 quarter-final win over Riverside that secured a B.C. berth, a lunch hour team meeting was held.

“We brought all our (provincial tournament) plaques into my classroom. The girls walked in and saw them and knew this was the game they had to win to get another one,” continued Sweeney. “It’s really been a lot of fun.”

The Sun Devils actually enjoyed an early lead on the talented Centaurs when Gallagher headed home a corner kick. However, the Coquitlam school answered moments later on a penalty after a hand ball.

The game remained tied at 1-1until another hand ball on the edge of the penalty area resulted in the game winner. Centennial then added a late insurance goal for a well-deserved victory.

This is the final year of the Fraser Valley Championships with Delta and Surrey schools joining Richmond in the new B.C. School Sports’ Fraser South Zone. It will likely include two leagues at the tier one level with one featuring Delta, Richmond and South Surrey schools.

A zone playoff tournament would follow for provincial qualifying.

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