After months of inter-provincial competition, the 2019 14-and-under Western National Championship was played this past weekend in Calgary, with eight boys and eight girls’ teams competing for the title of Western National Champions League.
Teams from all four Western Canadian provinces were entered. Teams qualified for the finals through their performance in the three western provincial 14U leagues that take place annually in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba/Saskatchewan. In 2019, the top three girls and boys teams from B.C. and Alberta, and the top two teams from Manitoba/Saskatchewan qualified for the tournament.
Many of these teams have never faced each other before and had to adapt on the fly.
The tournament began with a round robin. Both the girls’ and boys’ divisions featured two round robin pools of four teams each. The top two teams from each pool then advanced to the semifinals.
The Estevan Sharks 14U boys advanced to the Westerns NCL tournament. During the round robin play the boys team played hard but found themselves coming up short, as they had to fight their way out of the 7/8 position. On Sunday morning they regrouped and with some strong defensive and offensive play from all players, the Sharks battled against the Edmonton Thunderbirds.
The game started out strong for both teams as they went goal for goal and had a 7-7 tie at half time. In the third period the boys had a small 11-10 lead, and then in the fourth quarter the Sharks played for the win, and they found the back of the net five more times to end with a 16-11 win.
This was a great win for the boys and ended their season on a high. The coaches were very impressed with the improvement of this team and how well they played against the big city squads. Many of the competing teams had never heard of the Estevan Sharks and were shocked to learn they came from a city of only 11,000 people, yet had such a competitive group of athletes.
Three girls from the Estevan Sharks waterpolo club joined the Regina Armada 2 team for the women’s tournament. This was the first national final competition for 14U player Sadie Smith and 12U players Lily Knoll and Emily Sauder, who all played well for the Regina team in a highly competitive tournament.
The team started with a hard loss to the top-ranked B.C. team from the Fraser Valley. They followed with a win over the Calgary Seawolves and a loss against the top-ranked Alberta team, Calgary Mako, to finish third in their pool and ranked fifth overall in the girls’ division after the round robin was completed.
In the first playoff game they met the other Regina Armada team and suffered another tough loss. In their final game of the weekend, the Armada 2 team came away with a hard-fought victory, to finish with a tournament record of 2-3, good for seventh overall. Knoll was the goalie for all five games for the Armada team, while Smith and Sauder played both offensive and defensive roles throughout the tournament.