The Capers are back.
Rookie Devon Pierre scored the only goal of a sloppy game to give the Cape Breton Capers another AUS title.
"I was just in the right spot at the right time," Pierre said.
"Devon is a local kid," said Capers coach Ness Timmons. Pierre is from Albert Bridge, N.S., near Sydney. "A bit off the radar--not a provincial player or anything--but a quality athlete...we think that she'll have a fabulous career in the AUS."
The game was largely without incident. Cape Breton ran most of the possession for 90 minutes, but were unable to create many clear-cut chances.
The Panthers' rare chances came on the break, or when Cape Breton failed to clear one of the many, many long balls whacked aimlessly into the box. Carolyn McKenna missed a largely open goal in the 15th minute and Tiffany O'Donnell had to make one save late in the first half with her forehead.
Aside from that, the Capers absorbed most of UPEI's attack, which struggled all weekend to link anything through their midfield.
Pierre's goal came from a situation no different than any in the game so far, only this time the throw-in fell to Erika Lannon and the talented Cape Breton forward drove a cross in front of goal. Pierre ran perfectly onto the cross and smashed a shot. Chanelle Roy improbably managed to get in front of it, but could only deflect Pierre's bullet up onto the crossbar and down into the goal.
"We gave away a goal with two mental mistakes," said UPEI coach Mike Redmond. "That cost us. We could have gone and collected the ball on the ball that went out and then on the throw-in we over-committed defensively. We make those two mistakes at this level, it's going to cost us. It's juvenile stuff...it's frustrating to give away a game like that."
Redmond's optimism faded quickly in that quote, and appropriately so, since the same was true of his team on the day. UPEI again failed to involve Tessa Roche in the attack, and she drifted wider and wider as the game went on, becoming more and more isolated thanks to effective marking by Nicholle Morrison.
After the Capers went ahead, UPEI panicked. What had been a dysfunctional but potentially capable attack became frenetic and hopeless. Cape Breton sat back for the final half hour, content to whack the ball into the Panthers' half. Rather than build an attack, the Panthers back four tried to rush things, hitting long passes straight into touch. Save for a mazy run by Chelsie McInnis that really never got anywhere near O'Donnell, the Panthers had nothing after Cape Breton scored. Pierre may as well have scored a golden goal. The game ended as a contest in the 55th minute.
"PEI are very organized in the back, they're very tough. They get the ball out early and fast," said Timmons. While those balls rarely went anywhere, the Panthers' biggest success on the day was nullifying the offence that tore a gaping hole in the Dal Tigers Saturday. "It's tough to penetrate that back line and get quality shots. We knew our chances might be few, but we took advantage of the few we did have."
The Capers and Panthers both qualified for CIS nationals with wins on Saturday.
"I can't even wait [for nationals]," said Pierre. "I've never been to a nationals before. I can't wait at all. The fact that we won, and we're going on a win...is amazing.
Cape Breton, though, won't get much seeding advantage at nationals. Queen's lost a shocker in the OUA final to Laurier, meaning the Capers get arguably the best team to qualify for nationals in the quarter-finals--not that there's much consolation for the Panthers (who would otherwise have had them) who will now draw the QSSF/RSEQ Montreal Carabins.
"I'm not concerned about how we'll play," said Redmond, "'cause I know we'll play very well--it's not the first time we've been there. As host it's important we put a good foot forward, not just for UPEI, but for Atlantic Canada in hosting."
Last time the CIS championships were played in the Atlantic region was 2007. Host Cape Breton made a run to the final and won it on home turf.
[Cross-posted to Haligonia.ca, CIS Blog, Dal Soccer Live]