Stettler remains in the medal picture for a third straight year at the provincial under-18 boys’ Tier 4 rural soccer championship.
After winning the title last year, and mining silver in 2011, the latest Stettler side settled for a bronze medal Sunday afternoon at Lacombe, edging Hinton 4-3 in the third-place game.
In semifinal play early Sunday morning, Stettler dropped a 3-0 decision to host Lacombe, which went on to beat Vegreville 2-1 in the gold-medal match.
The under-18 feat was the second bronze-medal finish for Stettler Minor Soccer Association teams Sunday. The under-12 boys placed third at Three Hills, dumping the Hurricanes 9-2.
Stettler’s under-18 girls reached their final at home, but earned a silver medal after a 4-1 loss to Lacombe.
The youthful under-16 boys’ team from Stettler also hosted the provincials, but lost all of its four games.
The Stettler under-18 boys were warriors, playing five games in three days with a short bench. Stettler opened with a 12-0 rout of Morinville on Friday, and kicked off Saturday with an 8-2 victory over Sherwood Park. Stettler’s first taste of defeat came in a 3-2 loss to Hinton, the team Stettler later defeated in the bronze-medal match.
UNDER-18 BOYS: Stettler coach William Stephenson said the under-18 boys showed a commitment that isn’t typical of players in that age group.
“The young men played with heart and passion,” he said. “As a team, they worked well together. Throughout the season, they showed their heart and talent and commitment that’s necessary to pull out extraordinary wins like today’s. They improved on their passing and it made the difference.”
Stephenson and Didier Niybizi are in their first year as the Stettler under- 18 coaches. The Lacombe provincials were a homecoming of sorts for Stephenson, who used to live in that community.
He said Stettler faced a tough opponent in the host team in their semifinal at 8 a.m. Sunday. How did he mange to get his players ready to go at that early hour?
“We bribed them,” Stephenson said with a smile. “Every single player that has been committed to the team was here by 7:30 to 7:45, and some as early as 7:15.”
In the bronze-medal game, Stettler’s Matt Bennett scored “a very beautiful goal” on a Logan Hadwell setup to make the score 1-1 before halftime, Stephenson said.
Hinton regained the lead, but Stettler captain Jake Vermeer evened the score and netted the winner on an assist from Anthony Vanderburg.
The Stettler players hung around the park to receive their bronze medals.
“The medal showed their resilience, determination and passion,” said the passionate Stephenson. “They’re the exact things that we talked about — to dig deep — and they found it today and they were successful.”
Vanderburg and Brandon Wintringham were also members of the Stettler team that won the under-18 provincials last year in Three Hills.
In this past weekend’s tournament, Vanderburg had nine goals and seven assists, Stephenson said. “He’s very talented — a very strong player.”
UNDER-12 BOYS: En route to their bronze-medal performance at Three Hills, the Stettler under-12 boys blanked the hosts 7-0 in their opening game Friday.
Austin Jacobson and Daniel Moon each scored two goals and singles went to Connor Wyness, Wade Smith and Robert Mbongalonzi.
On Saturday, Moon and Brennan Getson tallied in its 5-2 loss to The Other Guys.
In its final preliminary game, Stettler bounced back with an 8-0 victory over Ardrossan. Daylan Kuefl er fired four goals, while Jacobson, Wyness, Moon and Andrew Chapman added one each.
Stettler closed the eight-team tournament in style Sunday, topping the Hurricanes 9-2 in the bronze-medal game. Jacobson, Getson, Moon and Mbongalonzi each netted two goals and Smith had one.
In four games, Stettler outscored its opponents 26-7.
In the gold-medal game, the Vermilion Strikers beat The Other Guys 3-1.