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Bears strike early in 3-1 loss

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Tuesday’s Norfolk girls soccer game at Valley Heights Secondary School started early and finished late.

Delhi District Secondary School’s offence started late and finished three in a 3-1 NSSAA season opening win.

Shandi Pace opened scoring early in the first half for the VHSS Bears.

“It was a good pass from Shanaya (Armstrong),” said Pace, who scored with a left-footed shot.

“She passed it through the middle and I was wide open. I got the pass and kicked it in the corner.”

Delhi replied twice, one minute apart, with less than five minutes left in the first half. Another Delhi goal early in the second half sealed a 3-1 victory. Kara Ebdon, Emily Leger and Erin Socholotiuk scored for the Raiders.

“We started off slow,” said Delhi coach Brandi Arthur, attributing it to limited pre-season practices and early-season ‘cobwebs.’

“After a while we got back into a bit of a rhythm. We’ve got some things to work on obviously. With the weather being so cold we haven’t been outside much. I think we’ve been outside for two practices.”

“I thought it was a really good start, but we lost some momentum after Jess (Fleming) got hurt,” said Pace. “But I think we gained some of it back. We just had some confusion around the net, that’s how they scored.”

A serious second-half knee injury to Bears’ defender Jessica Fleming, which required an ambulance, delayed the final whistle by more than 40 minutes.

“I think the wind was taken out of their sails with the injury,” said Valley Heights coach Andy Blackwood. “She (Fleming) was our captain and ‘chief of defence.’”

“We have mostly Grade 11s, and a lot of Grade 10s too,” said Pace. “Just a few returning players, I think, and Jessica’s one of them. I feel really bad because Jessica wanted to play soccer so much.”

The Bears kept it close, and that was a big part of the game plan, said Pace.

“It’s definitely good for our first game. Definitely good to have a good game against Delhi.”

“I’m happy with it,” nodded Valley Heights coach Andy Blackwood, “considering the fact that Delhi was far-and-away the best team in the league last year.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to prepare, so this is really the first time they’ve had a chance to play together. I was pleased with how some of the first-year players played.”

The Bears fielded seven first-year high school soccer players Tuesday, said Blackwood, including two rookie goalies – Trudy Knelsen (first half) and Brianna Spanics.

A late start getting the team together was compounded with poor weather last week, said Blackwood, limiting pre-season practices.

“We couldn’t get on the field. Last week, for three days, it was unplayable. I think we had three outdoor practices and one scrimmage, which is probably about the same as everybody else.”

“We have some kinks to work out, but I like the fact they were aggressive and scored on Delhi first. Delhi’s experience showed, certainly, but once we get playing together, it’ll get better,” Blackwood summed up.

“We have the people who can score, it’s getting them used to pushing the ball forward so we can do that. Today, Delhi controlled the midfield. But we had our chances – we had a couple really good chances. We have people who can score, we just have to get them released.

“If they play well… if they play like they know then can play – and I’ve seen them play – I think they can make the playoffs.”

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