SURREY — Surrey United teams both finished in the medals at the 2013 Canadian club soccer championships in Halifax over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The Surrey United women went undefeated but wound up holding bronze medals in the Jubilee Trophy tournament while Surrey United Firefighters made it all the way to the championship final before settling for a silver medal in the men's Challenge Trophy competition.
In women's action, Surrey captured a medal for the 10th straight year when they knocked off Ontario 3-0 in the bronze medal game Monday.
The only blemish on Surrey's record at the tourney came in their opening game when they tied Edmonton Victoria 1-1. That draw came back to haunt United as the Alberta and B.C. champions finished with identical records at the end of round-robin play but Edmonton advanced to the title game based on goals scored.
"We've been down this path before so I guess we're not surprised," said Surrey captain Kate Qually. "I remember one year where we had the same thing happen - we didn't lose a game but we had one tie that kept us out of the championship game. Sometimes the tournament format is frustrating, but we knew that going in so it is what it is."
Qually added Surrey's fate is even harder to accept when compared to the men's tourney at the same venue where teams play through a full playoff draw and not just a one-game playoff.
"You look at the men's tournament and it's hard not to be somewhat envious of that," she said. "They have a couple of extra teams to make the format work, but I don't know why we couldn't do something like that. All I can say is it is frustrating to think about."
After the opening draw with Edmonton, Surrey topped Saskatchewan 3-1 and walloped P.E.I. 4-0 before wrapping up round-robin play with a 3-1 win over Manitoba.
Surrey then closed out the tournament by shutting out Ontario in the bronze medal game to earn a measure of revenge for a loss in the 2012 title game.
"The good thing about getting the bronze is the tournament ends in a positive way," Qually said. "We've been there before and got a silver medal, which means you're ending with a loss. The bronze medal is still big with us because we've never not medaled in 10 years of national championships. No team has ever done that and we take a lot of pride in what we come there to do. To come away with a bronze is still important to us and we don't take those games lightly. That's probably why we've won medals every year - we don't take any game lightly."
In men's Challenge Trophy competition, a patchwork Firefighters squad battled all the way to the championship game before falling to Ontario 3-0.
"It's going to be a little while before I can look back on this and say it was a great result," said Surrey coach Rob Reed. "Making it to the final requires so much work and effort, but we were fortunate to make it through some tricky spots to get there. We made it to the final and we were in a good position to win, but then some unfortunate things happened that made it almost impossible for us."
Surrey topped Manitoba 1-0 in their first round-robin match thanks to a goal by 17-year-old call-up Bhavraj Saran. In their next outing, Surrey dropped a 3-2 decision to P.E.I. but still advanced to the playoff round based on goal aggregate.
In the quarter-finals Surrey faced a formidable opponent in defending champion Quebec but managed to pull off a 2-1 upset thanks to goals from Sean Einarsson and Justin Carvery and stellar defensive work by Saran.
"We definitely deserved to win that game," Reed said. "They scored on a penalty kick in the final minute to make it close, but we played great all game. One of our 17 year olds, Bhavraj Saran, played an amazing game for us. We assigned him to man mark their best player, a guy who was probably the best player in the tournament and he did a phenomenal job. He marked him right out of the game. It was so impressive to watch."
That win put Surrey in the semifinals where they faced another tough test in Saskatchewan. After playing to a 1-1 draw through regulation, the game proceeded to penalty kicks where the two teams needed seven rounds before Surrey emerged as the winner. Goaltender Andrew Fink stopped four spot shots to set the stage for 17-year-old Karn Phagura's game winner.
With two massive wins behind them, Surrey was feeling good heading into the championship game against Ontario Monday. The Firemen dominated the early stages of the contest, but the game changed dramatically in the 25th minute when Surrey captain Vince Stewart was sent off with a red card. Forced to play a man short for the remaining 65 minutes, Surrey ran out of gas and wound up on the short end of a 3-0 final score.
"To be honest it felt like we were a team of destiny the way everything fell into place for us," Reed said. "To finish the game a man down really made things impossible.
It was a long flight home for us. I'm sure one day - and it won't be anytime soon because the pain is still fresh - but one day we'll look at this and say what an unbelievable accomplishment it was by all of our players. Despite falling just a bit short at the end, I couldn't be more proud of our team."
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