Crescent Collegiate girls' ball hockey coach Beverly Collins praised her team for showing "drive, determination amd heart" in its AAAA girls' ball hockey provicial championship run April 19-21 at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts.
"I told them they knew what they had to do and they went out and did it. They showed the hearts of lions," she said.
The team, a mixture of young and older talent, went undefeated in the tournament, posting a record of two wins, no losses and one tie in the round-robin tournament.
At certain points during the tournament, the younger athletes leaned on the older ones for guidance, said Collins.
"They showed experience and leadership during the tournament," the coach stated.
The Crescent Collegiate girls' ball hockey team beat the Ascension Collegiate Astros, its Conception Bay rivals in Bay Roberts, 4-3 to capture the first AAAA provincial banner for the school this season.
Crescent kicked off the tournament with a tilt against Menihek High School from Labrador City, with the two teams battling to a 2-2 draw.
In Game 2, Crescent dumped the O'Donel High Patriots from Mount Pearl 3-1. Noelle Russell picked up two late goals in the final 10 minutes to break a 1-1 deadlock. It was Russell's third goal of the game.
The 'Yotes opened the offensive flood gates in Game 3, thumping Exploits Valley High of Grand Falls-Windsor by a score of 7-0.
The game was a turning point, as the Crescent team shook off some early tournament nerves, said Collins.
Noelle Russell could see her team gelling as the tournament went on.
"We didn't really have a lot of time to practice before provincials, so it took some time to get used to each other," she said.
In its semifinal matchup, Crescent met the Mount Pearl Senior High Huskies, doubling them up 4-2 and setting up what turned out to be an epic confrontation with Ascension, which had gone undefeated in the tournament with a perfect four wins and no losses, including a semifinal victory over Menihek.
The Astros and Coyotes met in what one official described as an "intense game."
Crescent got on the board first on a goal from Alicia Gilliam. The Astros tied it up two minutes later when Natalie Keeping scored.
Karissa Bardbury scored the second goal for the Coyotes, while Keeping replied for Ascension with her second of the game.
Gillam put the Coyotes ahead with her second of the game. Gilliam would score again, completing the hat trick and putting Crescent up 4-2 late in the contest.
Erica Badcock score with just under three minutes remaining to shrink the gap to 4-3, setting up a furious finish.
For the last two minutes, goaltender Claire Newhook and the rest of her teammates focused on defence.
"I so was nervous, but I bore down at the end," said Newhook. "The ball bounces so many different ways in ball hockey. All it takes is one, but that didn't happen."
The Coyotes held off the final push of the Astros to secure the victory.
"The final two minutes were very intense," said Collins.
"We didn't let Ascension set up and we concentrated on dumping the ball down the court. Both teams played a great game, but we were determined."
The final day presented a challenge for the Coyotes' players. Due to scheduling, the team had to play the championship game a mere half hour after defeating Mount Pearl in the semifinal.
"It was a grind and by the last game we were looking at the clock saying, 'There's only 10 minutes left,'" said Russell.
When the final buzzer sounded, the team erupted in an explosion of emotion.
"It was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders," Russell added.
The team had previously captured two silver medals at the provincial championships (2011 and 2009).
"I cried. I ran over to Dana (Thorne) and I screeched," said player Terrilynn Hoskins.
The majority of the players on the team have been with Collins since Grade 6, some since Grade 8. To say they have a strong bond would be an understatement.
"We're like a family," said Russell.
After so many years of being the bridesmaids, the team decided this year that the outcome would be different.
"We had a drive to end as champions, and we did it. I'm ending my career on a high note," said Russell with a laugh. She was kidding.
Members of the championship team are: Newhook, Alicia Gilliam, Russell, Emma Russell, Dana Thorne, Karissa Bradbury, Marissa Keating, Terrilynn Hoskins, Emma Gilbert, Kaitlyn Mayne, Melissa Crane and Heidi Jackson.