Sunset women’s football team retained their grip on the President’s Cup – and have two 15-year-olds to thank for it.
The final at the TE McField Annex on Wednesday was like last year’s championship game – decided in extra time – only this time against Scholars International. Sunset won 2-1.
Last year Sunset poured in four extra time goals to subdue Future and this time the winner came from Meghan Ehman in the 117th minute.
Sunset took the lead in the 11th minute when Natalie Simpson skipped past two defenders and placed a well composed shot past Kristina Seymour.
After a nervous start, Scholars grew in confidence, led by Jetena Bodden and captain Kaela Ebanks.
Scholars pressed for an equalizer in the second half and with time running out, Sunset felt assured the trophy was their’s again before a hand ball in the box gave Scholars a penalty. Tatiana Ramoon stepped up and coolly slotted home to take the game into extra time.
A penalty shootout looked certain until Ehman finished a move started by substitute Gisela “GG” Gamba down the flanks, slipping a shot past a diving Seymour, much to the relief of the Sunset contingent.
Scholars head coach Mario Walter said, “We lost focus at the end and were thinking more about taking penalties. It was just a loss of concentration.”
Watler feels that Scholars are long overdue a trophy, having not won one for over a decade. But as his youngsters mature, he sees them breaking that barren spell soon.
He felt that Martika Williams and Shanai Allen were Scholars’ best players against Sunset. “We play Sunset in the league next week and in the meantime we’ll regroup and hopefully end up winners,” Watler said. “They are six points ahead of us with a game in hand but we can still catch them.”
Canadian Ehman said she was “ecstatic” at scoring her first goal for Sunset. The winger came on as a second half sub. Despite her youth, she has played in most of the women’s games this season.
Simpson is another Canadian who has settled well at Sunset. Her goal may have been expertly executed but Simpson admitted that when she went on her weaving run, she was “just hoping not to lose it and didn’t really think of scoring.”
Simpson was “a little upset” when Scholars equalized but was confident they could still win, even if it went to penalties.
Sunset head coach Alan Purvis felt, on balance, his side deserved the victory, in a “very, very tough game.”
He said that Simpson’s goal was “fantastic” for a novice and was extra special because she was only in the team through absences and injuries to seniors.
Purvis felt Sunset warranted a penalty just before the end, which would have sealed a 2-0 win. “It was a trip and I thought it was quite clear but the referee didn’t see it,” he said. “The penalty they got was a very soft one, I thought. The ref gave hand ball but the girls said it came off Cassandra Bodden’s thighs.
“But one thing we have as a team is steel. We fight to the end and never stop. A good number of games we’ve won in the last minute and that is down to pure heart. You can’t coach that.”
Sunset were so short of players that Gamba was a sub, despite not being fully fit and having recently retired. She went on a few minutes before the end to be eligible to take a penalty if it went to a shootout.
Gamba felt Sunset fully deserved the win. “Scholars had no shots on goal in the first half and in the second half the referee didn’t call a clear penalty on Natalie Simpson,” she said.
“The ref called a hand ball that in my opinion was not a penalty since Cassandra had the arm next to her body and the ball hit her arm.
“Sunset had a few chances but we were missing key players and having Karlie Cross on the bench due to food poisoning was not ideal. She played a bit but had to come off.”
Gamba expects Sunset to add the league and FA Cup to their haul to complete the full set, like they did last year.
“Our season is going okay but we’re struggling with injuries and players traveling. If we had the full squad every week, things would be different.”
She said she admires the women’s teams who are working hard, improving and making their games difficult. “We still have the advantage of having more experience and being more composed since our players are older.
“Scholars should be proud of themselves. They are a young team that are coming along really well. They should keep training hard and things will start happening for them.”