At the beginning of the season, Rainy River Owls girls' soccer team head coach Rebecca Tolen believed it would be a rebuilding year for her squad.
She was happy to be proven wrong on that assumption.
After finishing the regular season in second place with a 4-1-1 record, the Owls downed the Sioux Lookout Warriors 3-1 in the NorWOSSA 'A' semi-finals in Red Lake last Wednesday.
But hopes of advancing to NWOSSAA were not to be as they lost 6-0 to the top-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) the following day to bring their season to an end.
“I was super impressed by my girls this season as I truly thought it would be a rebuilding year,” Tolen remarked.
“We changed our whole style of play to capitalize on our quickness,” she noted.
"The girls played aggressive but clean, and worked hard every time they stepped on to the field.
“Our biggest strength was that not one girl on the team was selfish,” Tolen added.
“They worked extremely hard as a unit so defending against them was difficult.”
Mika Kooistra, Jasmine Holmes, and Lilly Blakeney scored to pace the Owls to their semi-final win over the Warriors last week.
Tolen lauded the play of her keeper, who she felt was one of the main factors why the squad achieved such success this season.
“Our goalie, Madison Whetzel, saved us more than once, giving up her body in order to do so,” she recalled.
“She was aggressive and decisive, making sure that any balls that got into the 18-yard box were quickly under her control.”
Tolen felt the squad played exceptionally well in the semi-final and worked extremely hard to fend off the Warriors' attack.
“We had really well-rounded play on the field and struck from all over,” she enthused.
“Our passes and ball-handling were really on point.”
But in the loss to the Saints in the final, a lack of discipline ultimately was the Owls' demise.
“We apparently wanted to trip the T.A. girls in our own 18-yard box,” noted Tolen.
“Three times this led to penalty shots, which they were able to capitalize on.”
Looking ahead, Tolen believes the Owls will be in good shape next season.
“I think the future looks pretty good for this team as I have lots of young players that are really willing to work hard at improving,” she enthused.
“I also will have a large number of seniors next year that are extremely talented,” Tolen added.
“So I am expecting to do great things next season.”
In boys' action, Nick Vogan had the lone tally for the Owls in their 3-1 semi-final loss to the Warriors last Wednesday.
The squad had earned the semi-final berth after having finished fourth in the regular-season standings with a 1-4-1 record.
The Warriors then fell to the Saints 2-1 in penalty kicks the following day, who now will host the NWOSSAA boys' championships tomorrow and Friday.
The Saints' girls, meanwhile, will be in Marathon for NWOSSAA those same days.