Sunset Ladies have clinched the Cayman Islands Football Association Women’s League title, getting the three points they needed for an unassailable lead.
The decisive game last week was against Scholars at the Ed Bush field in West Bay. Scholars went into the game having recorded league wins over Future and Elite and confidence was high.
Sunset, meanwhile, was riding on the back of a 21-game unbeaten streak, having won 15 and drawn 6 in all competitions, but came into the game with a growing injury list to a number of key players, including their captain Gisela “GG” Gamba.
Sunset midfielder Caron Murphy looked to create opportunities for the forwards at every opportunity, and stand-in captain Karlie Cross drove at the Scholars defense.
The pressure paid off in the 32nd minute when Cross drilled a shot from the edge of the area that the keeper stopped, but she could not prevent the ball from spilling over her head and over the line.
The movement from Sunset’s two strikers, Kathleen Williams and Natalie Simpson, was good and they created numerous problems for the Scholars backline.
The second half continued in similar fashion with Sunset controlling the play for long periods.
Chances still came at a premium, though, as they searched for the second goal. Going into the last 10 minutes, Sunset was reduced to 10 players when Jen Cotarelo picked up a second yellow card for time wasting. This changed the complexion of the game entirely, and an inspired Scholars began asserting pressure.
Scholars’ star player Jetina Bodden beat three Sunset players on the left and squared the ball, only for her teammate to poke wide from inside the box.
Bodden had at least two more similar forays into the Sunset third, but each time they escaped thanks to a combination of resolute defending and wayward finishing.
When the final whistle blew with the 1-0 score line retained, Sunset was relieved, but there were no wild celebrations.
Sunset coach Alan Purvis and assistant coach Trevor Murphy felt the same emotions as their players. “We didn’t have our best game, but again we got the job done,” Purvis said. “We controlled the game well in spells but could have done with an extra goal, and losing a player late in the game obviously added pressure with what was at stake. The ladies held firm and defended well as they have done all season, and we were able to keep yet another clean sheet.”
Before the weekend fixtures, Sunset had won seven and drawn two for a total of 23 points.
They led Elite, who moved back into second place with a 2-0 win over Future, by 11 points with only three games left.
Sunset is also the league’s top scorer with 16 goals and has the meanest defense, conceding only twice all season in league and cup games.
The league title is Sunset’s second successive title, and third in total. They won the competition last season in dramatic fashion with literally the last kick of the game against Elite.
They also have another domestic double, having won the President’s Cup on Ash Wednesday with a thrilling 4-0 win over Future in extra time with Elena Testori scoring a brace.
Last season Sunset won the league and FA Cup.
Sunset is now looking to add the FA Cup to their trophy cabinet and complete an unprecedented treble.
“It’s been a fantastic season for us so far, and I’m extremely proud of the players, not only for their achievements, but also for the way they have played,” said Purvis.
“We are a good passing team and play attractive attacking football. We have dominated almost every game this season and been deserved winners. We have a great spirit, a strong squad and a dedicated coaching team.”
He added that they want to retain the FA Cup but have to get past Future in the semifinal this week, which will not be an easy game.
“I’m sure Future will be looking to amends after the President’s Cup defeat, so we need to be prepared for that if we want to progress to the final.”
The FA Cup semifinals are on April 5 at the Ed Bush field in West Bay. Future faces Sunset at 6 p.m., and Elite plays Scholars in the 8 p.m. kick-off.