Sports

Rebels off to soccer provincials

Byrne Creek Bulldogs forward Hussein Mana, right, battles a Handsworth defender for control of the ball in the first half of their provincial qualifier semi-final, Tuesday at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West. The Bulldogs lost 2-1 in penalty kicks, eliminating them from further play. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Byrne Creek Bulldogs forward Hussein Mana, right, battles a Handsworth defender for control of the ball in the first half of their provincial qualifier semi-final, Tuesday at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West. The Bulldogs lost 2-1 in penalty kicks, eliminating them from further play.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

As darkness descended upon Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West on Tuesday afternoon, so did a dark feeling in the minds of the Burnaby South Rebels soccer squad.

They had fired shot after shot after shot at West Vancouver Highlanders goaltender Shawn Greensides, and the tall, lanky keeper kept thwarting their thrusts. There was no doubt Greensides was getting into the heads of the South shooters.

“He was even in my head,” said South head coach Robbie Puni. “This guy’s got a big wing span.”

So it was a bit of a surprise when the game went to a penalty kick shootout after scoreless regulation and overtime sessions and Rebels shooters managed to connect on their first four shots on Greensides while the Highlanders missed two.

The 1-0 win propelled the Rebels into the AAA high school championships to be held at Burnaby Lake Nov. 22-24.

“It was a huge win. We did control most of the game. Their goalie was outstanding. I told these kids to keep working,” said Puni.

Puni praised his own goalie, Alex Marroquin, particularly for coming up with two stops in the shootout. Marroquin admitted to being a bit nervous heading into the shootout.

“I was trying not to hesitate. I was trying my best to stay calm,” said Marroquin, who is nearly a foot shorter than Greensides.

The drama built for him during the game as he watched his teammates dominate and only having to deal with the occasional foray into Rebel territory.

“If I make one mistake, it was going to be all over. He kept his team in the game. He gave our team nothing,” he said.

Marroquin missed the past couple of weeks of action because of a blood clot in his left arm which had become infected. But he wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to advance to the provincial championship for a second consecutive year.

“Not for nothing. I wanted to be part of this win,” said Marroquin, who plays club soccer for the South Burnaby Metro Club.

His play drew the admiration of Puni. “He’s gone through a lot of adversity, and he’s got a lot of talent, but now I know he’s a fighter.”

Nicholas Leonard was the shooter that put the final dagger in the Highlanders’ hopes by beating Greensides with an emphatically taken penalty kick.

“I just thought stick with the way I always go in the penalty kicks and I did and he went the other way,” said Leonard, who admitted it was nice to see the Rebels shooters connect on all four penalty kicks.

“I was surprised, especially him being the keeper he was. I thought he would dive the right way at least once.”

Leonard had a second half shot on which he thought he would score but Greensides dove and managed to knock it around the net for a corner kick.

“We just kept going at him. We were trying to do everything we could to beat him, but unfortunately we couldn’t put it in the back of the net,” said Leonard.

Last year’s Rebels also advanced to the provincials finishing fourth, and Leonard believes this year’s club is better situated to win it all even though it tied for third during the regular season and lost the BNW banner final game to the AA Cariboo Hill Chargers.

“Now we just have better chemistry through the team, and we still have just as many good players,” said Leonard, who felt there was too much bickering on last year’s team. “We didn’t have any of that this year. We just play as a team, no negativity on the team, it’s all positive.”

He didn’t get any argument from Puni on his analysis. Puni said there was a lot of infighting with the seniors last year, possibly because he was a new coach trying to install a new system.

Another reason for the Rebels to be confident is South was playing without its best player, Matt Shannick. “He’s the guy that stirs our drink,” said Puni.

West Van still has a shot at the provincials. The Highlanders were to play the Handsworth Royals on Thursday for a second berth.

Handsworth edged Byrne Creek 2-1 on penalty kicks, outscoring the Bulldogs 4-1 in the shootout in a battle of the BNW and North Shore No. 2 teams.

Also on Tuesday, Cariboo Hill defeated St. Thomas Aquinas 3-1 in North Vancouver to secure a berth in the AA provincials to be held at Burnaby Lake Nov. 19-21.

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