THE FAR South Coast Flames under 14 girls’ representative soccer team joined 273 other teams from across 29 competitions to participate in the largest youth sports tournament in the southern hemisphere earlier this month.
Teams from all over Australia were joined by international sides from Korea and New Zealand for the Kanga Cup tournament in Canberra from July 6-11, with the Flames making their second appearance in their age category.
Coach Hugh Pitty set his side the challenge of making the semi-finals in their six-team under 14s competition, and the team comprised of four players from Bega, one each from Tathra and Merimbula, two from Pambula and seven from Eden obliged.
Despite going down 2-0 to the Colo Cougars in the semi-final, Bega representative Tayla Wilson was named player of the tournament.
The Flames had experience on their side, with 12 of the 15 players having played in the Kanga Cup before, including captain Chloe Harlow.
Frosty conditions that greeted the team for their first game, kicking off at 8:30am on the Monday morning in Dickson against Emerging United.
Going down 5-0 in the first game was not part of the plan, but the team felt better when they learnt that their opponents, the eventual runaway winners of the competition, are a development squad of elite players from the ACT who train three times a week.
The next day saw the Flames up against old foes Belconnen United Blue Devils, in a game of see-sawing fortunes.
After dominating the first half and taking a 2-1 lead through goals from Chloe Harlow and Janet King, the girls learnt the cost of letting their concentration slip in the second half, conceding three goals to go down 4-2.
Despite two early defeats, the Flames regrouped that afternoon to go up against the Sydney-based Northbridge Angels.
After being down 1-0, the team responded with a strong second half performance, and Tayla Wilson netted an equalizer which proved vital in gaining a 1-all draw.
After a social gathering on the Tuesday evening, the players enjoyed a sleep-in before a later kick-off time for the round four game late on Wednesday morning against the second-placed Colo Cougars.
Goalkeeper Rebecca Gray starred early on, making several good saves, before a strategic half time change saw Harlow move into goalkeeper.
With about ten minutes to go and cold rain setting in, Kiarna Mitchell played a well-timed pass to Janet King on the right wing, who in turn provided the perfect early cross into Wilson for the finish.
Celebrations erupted with Harlow racing up from goalkeeper to join in and congratulate Wilson, who had earlier hit the crossbar before securing the match-winner.
The Maccabi Sapphires were next up, and the Flames raced to a 3-0 halftime lead.
They weren’t about to let another lead slip, and solid defence and three more goals in the second half completed a 6-0 scoreline that included four goals for Harlow and earn the side a semi-final spot.
By the following day, the rain had returned and the Colo Cougars took a 1-0 lead at halftime in the semi.
Despite several close chances, the Flames were unable to find the net, and the Cougars put the result beyond doubt with a late goal.
The awards ceremony was a fitting end to a successful week at Kanga Cup, as the team celebrated Tayla’s achievement before gathering for a farewell dinner.