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FRED WIND CUP : Young Valley Christian girls soccer team battling through injuries, youth through first month

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

The 2018-2019 Valley Christian High girls soccer season is not beginning the way longtime head coach Kim Looney had hoped for. Coming off a stellar 20-4-1 campaign and a second straight Olympic League championship, the Lady Defenders were hoping to make the most of a young squad.

But injuries to two key players have put a wrench into those plans early on and through the first eight contests, V.C. dropped to 4-4 following last Friday evening’s 3-0 loss to St. Margaret’s High in the Fred Wind Cup. It’s the third time thus far that V.C. has been blanked after not scoring in just two games all last season.

“Right now, we just need to get healthy,” Looney said. “I need to get kids who aren’t getting minutes to get minutes so that when I go into league, they can perform, because I don’t know when I’m going to get these [injured players] back.”

Junior forward Janna Dunk, who started against the Tartans, has not completely healed from her injury and junior midfielder Megan Bouma sustained a hairline fracture to her ankle last Saturday and is out until at least Jan. 7. On top of that, junior Ashley Cuellar left the game just nine minutes in after spraining her left ankle.

The lack of senior leadership (V.C. graduated nine last season) was evident against St. Margaret’s as the Lady Defenders couldn’t get anything going throughout most of the game. Two minutes after Cuellar left the game, Juliet Ballard scored at the near post off a corner kick from Ella Kang.

The Lady Defenders thought they would have a golden chance to tie the contest in the 18thminute when Dunk, who darted past the St. Margaret’s goalkeeper, appeared to have been pushed from behind in the penalty box. But no foul was called, keeping V.C. without a shot on goal for the game. Meanwhile, St. Margaret’s increased its advantage to 2-0 in the 25thminute when Linna Cubbage found a wide-open Jasper Adams who didn’t miss the opportunity.

“This is her first game in two weeks, so the fact that she plays as hard as she did…I was proud of her in that respect,” Looney said of Dunk. “I don’t know; that’s a call by them. Was she down? Does she know how to flop? Yes. Should we have gotten a call? Maybe. Would it have been a game changer? Probably not.”

The best chance for the Lady Defenders to score came six minutes into the second half when senior midfielder Hanna Lara took a shot off a free kick from junior defender Mia DeKraker. Even though the shot tailed off to the right of the target, senior forward Christina Pollard appeared to be in a prime position to make it 2-1. But she was unable to get a shot off and V.C.  would end the game with no legitimate shots on goal. The final goal came in the 64thminute when Adams scored on a pass from Kang.

“I will first give credit to St. Margaret’s; they’re a very good team,” Looney said. “I lost nine seniors [last season], my defense is very green, and my offense has been riddled with injuries. So, at this point, I’m not making excuses. By far, St. Margaret’s is a better team than we are. But, we are still trying to connect the dots. I can’t get a lineup yet.

“I also give credit to my team because we made a lineup change; a formation change going into the second half and we were on their half of the field for 20 minutes,” Looney later added. “We’re learning; it’s just going to take some time.”

The story behind the Fred Wind Cup goes back to 1998 when the V.C. boys knocked off the Tartans 5-1. Two years later, the girls would begin their rivalry and in 2003, the girls game would precede the boys for what would be a yearly doubleheader. Wind, a former head coach at V.C., retired following the 1998-1999 season and Looney would take over three seasons later. Since 2000, the V.C. and St. Margaret’s girls have each won seven meetings and tied five other times with St. Margaret’s scoring two more times than the Lady Defenders. For the boys, St. Margaret’s leads that series 12-7-2 including a 3-1 win last Friday night.

“St. Margaret’s is a game of sentimentality,” Looney said. “I played for Fred Wind and he is still my mentor. I still go to him for a lot and Johnny has coached against him for years. There’s a mutual respect between us and St. Margaret’s. So, I think when we come out onto this field, do we want to win? Yes. Does he want to win? Yes. But at the end, when we can come into the circle and celebrate a guy like Fred who got me and Johnny where we are, and in turn, we are trying to get our kids where they need to be…to me, it’s just a fun game to be a part of.”

The Lady Defenders, who would defeat Crean Lutheran High 3-2 and Ontario Christian High 2-0 last Saturday, faced Rowland High in the first round of the Ontario Christian Tournament this past Wednesday. V.C. has won that tournament the past two seasons. The Lady Defenders will then host Village Christian High on Thursday in the Olympic League opener.