Ever-improving chemistry and a positive attitude propelled the Airdrie FC U13 Tier 3 girls’ soccer team to win three of its four games and the gold medal at the Anthem United Communities Cup, Jan. 17 to 19 in Okotoks.
“It was definitely the first tournament where we all kind of gelled,” said Jolene Allen, one of the team’s coaches. “We had some new additions to the team this season, and getting all the girls to vibe well with each other took a little bit of time.”
The athletes stormed out of the gate in the five-vs.-five, boarded soccer tournament, defeating the host Okotoks United 5-0 and the Calglen Courage 1-0 in its first two games.
Airdrie goalkeeper Cassandra Cadieux, who joined the team this season, came up big to record the two clean sheets.
“She’s an amazing little goalkeeper and she definitely had some amazing saves,” Allen said. “She’s been a great addition to the team.”
The team’s round-robin schedule ended on a sour note Jan. 18, when the Rangers Athletics handed Airdrie a 3-1 loss.
But the players were prepared for a setback, according to Allen, as learning how to react to adversity has been a recent focus for the squad. She said the coaches have stressed the importance of maintaining a positive attitude on the bench, regardless of what’s happening on the field.
“A lot of times, when the kids are playing and they’re frustrated with the ref or with each other…that negative energy can kind of feed [into the game],” Allen said. “As a team, we decided to create a fun word we could call out if we felt the vibe was getting negative.”
The players decided the term was “canned ketchup,” which, Allen said, is an inside joke among the players.
“The girls could yell it out and it would be a reminder to set our energy back to positive and focus on what was important, which was winning the gold medal and playing the best we could together,” she said. “It was really awesome to experience and watch that happen.”
Airdrie FC would get a shot at redemption in the gold-medal game Jan. 19 against the Rangers Athletics. This time, Airdrie overcame the Calgarians 2-1 to come away with the gold.
According to Allen, the victorious weekend was a collective effort, with each player chipping in.
“I think that’s what made the win so awesome – I really feel the girls are starting to gel,” she said. “They were all passing well and it was definitely a team effort.”
With the tournament wrapped up, Allen said the squad will return its focus to the regular indoor season. Airdrie FC competes in Calgary Minor Soccer Association’s U13 girls’ Tier 3 league, and is currently third in the nine-team division, with a 2-1 record. Prior to the regular season, the team went 3-1-1 in exhibitions and preseason.
With four new players on the roster this year, Allen said Airdrie FC will use its successful showing in Okotoks as a catalyst for the rest of winter.
“Going forward, I feel the girls are going to succeed and do really well,” she said.
The U13 team was not the only Airdrie FC squad to enjoy a successful tournament in Okotoks – the club's U10 girls' Aztecs team and U12 girls' Tier 3 team each won gold in their respective divisions, while the U11 and U12 girls' Tier 1 squads earned silver.