Originally published on CanadaSoccer.com
It’s not an upset says Holy Cross Head Coach Jake Stanford in reference to his team’s 1:0 victory over Royal Sélect Beauport.
And, to an extent, Stanford is right. After all, this is the third meeting in just five years at the Sport Chek National Championships between his Newfoundland side and the team from Québec, so both teams knew what to expect from the other.
For Holy Cross, dressed in yellow, this meant surrendering possession, and focusing on defence in order to thwart Québec’s quality on the ball. “Sure, we respected them but we weren’t intimidated,” says Stanford, whose team worked hard to close down space and maintain their defensive lines every time the red team attacked.
This strategy paid off for Holy Cross, in the 57th minute, when forward Steven DeLong collected a loose ball and sprinted, first past Beauport’s defence and then the charging keeper, to score the only goal of the match.
There was, however, plenty of excitement left in the game, including a near equalizer that hit the post, but not the back of the net in the dying minutes. “We had a bit of luck, but we’ll take it,” says Stanford, who, with only three minutes left, could be heard shouting, “These are the longest three minutes of my life, blow the whistle ref.”
And when the whistle did blow, Newfoundland erupted form the bench. “It’s so huge for us to do well,” says Stanford, “because it’s so tough to beat the big teams. We always have to fight so hard and I want to thank the players for putting in the effort, and believing in each other.”
Following the match, this pride could be seen on the face of every Holy Cross player. Having been placed in Group D alongside Québec, the 2012 Challenge Trophy winner, as well as Saskatchewan’s HUSA Alumni, the 2011 champion, the path to the quarterfinals was never going to be easy for them.
And, despite the victory, Holy Cross may still not qualify. The win keeps them in contention, but whether they advance or not depends on the outcome of tomorrow’s match between Québec and Saskatchewan. “Will see what the soccer Gods decide tomorrow,” says Stanford, “but for now, we’re going to enjoy this victory.”
Live coverage of the men’s semi-final and final of the Challenge Trophy will be streamed on Sunday 12 October and Monday 13 October, at canadasoccer.com/nationals.