Sunset women achieved what any side dreams of and stayed unbeaten throughout the season and captured all the prizes in the process.
They grabbed the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Scholars International at the Ed Bush stadium in West Bay on Saturday to add to the league title and inaugural President’s Cup already nestling in their quickly filling trophy cabinet. A perfect ending to a glorious campaign.
Last year, Sunset won the FA Cup and secured the league title literally with the last kick of the season, but this campaign was relatively easier because complacency did not creep in, new additions fitted in smoothly and their already admirable work ethic rose a notch.
Kathleen Williams scored in the 17th minute for Sunset after a surging run from midfield by Karlie Cross whose shot rebounded off the post and the striker was first to pounce.
Matches between these sides are always close and although the score reflects a tight game, it was far from that as Sunset had most of the possession throughout.
Sunset head coach Alan Purvis said, “It was another game where we dominated for large spells, particularly the second half when we were camped in the Scholars half for pretty much the entire time.
“Kicking into the wind in the first half was a little difficult for us and not having played for a month certainly showed as we were missing our sharpness and struggled to hit top gear.”
The early goal settled them nicely but Sunset could not create more and Scholars gave the champs some nervous moments.
The Sunset defense remained resilient, as they have all season, and shut down occasional Scholars forays. In the second half, Scholars pressed for more goals whilst never really being threatened.
Williams could have scored earlier in the game but when played through her shot was straight at Scholars keeper Kristina Seymour.
Elena Testori had a close range header kept out with a great save from Seymour and she also had a powerful shot across goal.
In the second half, Lesli Tathum had two great chances to score but she blazed wide and her second disappeared when her first touch was too heavy and Seymour smothered.
Cross and Jessica Ebanks had long-range efforts that went close and Megan Ehman also missed, from close range.
Testori had a great chance to wrap up the game later when a clearance went straight to her on the edge of the box, but she dragged her shot wide.
Scholars were brimming with confidence at the start, partly because brilliant midfielder Jeneta Bodden had returned from overseas for the game, but they could only manage a number of dangerous balls into the Sunset box which keeper Jovani Hessing gathered comfortably.
Sunset also made a couple of defensive errors that almost let Scholars in.
Scholars had spells of possession and territorial advantage but nothing that developed into clear cut opportunities.
Purvis said his side discussed before the game patience and sticking to their game plan and he was pretty satisfied that they achieved that.
“We dominated the game and on another day we maybe could have won more convincingly, however, you have to give full credit to Scholars for putting up a great fight and frustrating us in front of goal.”
Scholars tended to crowd the central areas and then try to release their strikers or wider players once they won it.
For Purvis, winning the treble was not an anticlimax but “a fantastic experience and achievement and it has been thoroughly deserved this season.”
He added, “We have been by far the best and most consistent team, playing good football throughout.”
They won 14 games and drew three, conceding only three times in total. They are also the top scorers with 31 in all competitions, which includes 23 in the league.
“There was a sense of relief when the final whistle blew as it has been a long, tiring season for some of the players being favorites with the expectation to win the game was extra draining,” he said.
“Although we didn’t have the same drama as last season, it has been exhilarating for everyone and the opportunity to win two cups is a great experience.”
Purvis reckons that the Cayman Compass coverage before the game definitely encouraged a healthy crowd despite being moved to West Bay from the TE McField Annex in George Town. “It also gave the teams a good opportunity to get themselves mentally focused on the game and helped to add a little edge.”
Sunset captain, Gisela “GG” Gamba, has been injured in recent months and, although missed, was pleased to watch her side maintain its success.
In the cup final, Sarah Pinches had a solid game in defense. She missed the first half of the season injured but has been a great asset since returning, particularly helping out with the injury-hit defense.
Cross marshals the Sunset midfield and has been a mainstay. Tireless and strong, she has also scored some crucial goals and is exceptionally skilful for a tall player. Purvis likens her effect to Yaya Toure’s.
Testori, the team’s top scorer, is a powerful and skilful Italian. Keogh was a star Sunset signing who adapted magnificently in her first season. “She gets better with every game, has fantastic energy and a powerful shot and cross,” said Purvis.
He feels Tathum has potential to develop into an exceptional player. “With more experience, she will finish chances like she had comfortably.”
Sophia Dilbert is a key defender who contributed to Sunset’s boast of having the meanest defense.
Lapse of concentration has not been a Hessing problem when all the play was upfield. She kept goal magnificently and showed great handling when Scholars threatened.
“With someone of GG’s ability and leadership qualities, she is always going to be a big miss,” said Purvis. “She hasn’t played since the President’s Cup Final when she was forced off early in the game. She will undergo surgery in the summer and hopes to be fit as close to the start of next season as possible.”
Thankfully, Sunset’s big squad was able to absorb the injuries.
There is little fear of drastic dip in fitness levels this summer because many Sunset players have other sporting interests, such as Gaelic football, touch rugby, flag football, indoor football and Corporate League football.
Purvis hoped for a surprise ticket for the World Cup finals in Brazil from his appreciative players but had to settle for the cooler of iced water dumped on his head after the game instead.
“I’m very lucky to have a great support team of Trevor Murphy and Danny Tathum and we make a great coaching unit. We try to play football that is enjoyable to play and watch.
“If we can achieve success with that along the way, then even better. It’s been a fantastic season and it’s great to put our name in the record books as the first women’s team in Cayman to win the treble.”