It was starting to look like it was never going to happen for the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Trailblazers. A number of years at or near the top of the regular-season standings for the senior boys soccer team always ended with heartbreak in the playoffs.
The determination for this year’s group, especially its senior core, was to put an end to that.
“Because it’s Grade 12 (for me) this year, right at the tryout, I told the boys that it’s our last year and I want to leave with a trophy, so let’s go make it happen,” said Lucas Ng.
They finally made it happen, edging the St. Robert’s Rams in penalty kicks to win the York Region Athletic Association (YRAA) Tier two championship.
“Oh my god, I don’t even know,” said Trailblazers goalie and captain Eric Stinciu, when trying to put his thoughts together on his team reaching the pinnacle. “I’ve been on the team since Grade 9, and every year, we made it to the semis or quarters. This year, thanks to these guys, we’ve finally pulled through. To finally get this in Grade 12, it’s a good way to end it.”
After a perfect regular season, Pierre Elliott Trudeau pulled through tight contests to advance to the final against St. Robert’s, a powerful school from the other side of the city. The Trailblazers found themselves battling the elements as well, with steady rain and wind pounding the field through the entire match.
“This was a terrible finals game,” said Ng, shivering after getting through the contest. “The conditions were terrible and the touches were off. We knew we couldn’t play our game, so all we could do was try our best. We couldn’t keep the ball on the ground, but we still all played with that desire to win.”
As a result, the Trailblazers didn’t create as much offence as they would have hoped. That put more pressure on their keeper, but Stinciu was up to the task through regulation and extra time. He had a clean sheet through the first 100 minutes, sending the match to penalty kicks to determine a champion.
“Personally, as the goalie, I’m confident in my ability in penalty shootouts,” Stinciu said. “I thrive in them. So I didn’t mind us playing more defensively in (extra time). Obviously, the guys wanted to score and be the hero, but I think we did as good a job with defending as we did with going up with the attack.”
For Ng, whom, along with Stinciu, are the only Pierre Elliott Trudeau players to play on the senior team for all four years, it was a chance he couldn’t miss, even though he wasn’t at 100 per cent.
“I’ve been dealing with cramps for a really long time,” Ng said. “Almost every game this season, I had to deal with them. And then, with this one going into extra time, it was there. I really wanted to take that penalty. I knew I had to take it and so I wanted to be subbed on to take it and take it home.”
Trudeau took the early lead in the penalty shootout, but St. Robert’s would even it at 1-1 on its second attempt.
From there, it was six straight goals, sending things to sudden death.
That set the stage for Ng, the sixth shooter, who was very well prepared.
“I honestly really wanted to take that penalty, so I was super happy that it was still tied and I got to take the winning goal home,” Ng said. “I was super nervous, but I was confident that I was going to score. I picked the corner I (would shoot at) as soon as the game started, before it even got to penalties, I picked that corner and I knew I was going to score.”
Sure enough, Ng blasted it home, leaving it up to Stinciu to make a save to take the title.
“I knew that Eric would take care of business,” Ng said. “We had the crowd chirping on the other side a bit, but I knew that, once Eric stepped up there, he would make the save.”
Sure enough, Stinciu got his hands on the ball and knocked it aside, giving the Trailblazers – and their pair of four-year stars – a soccer title at long last.
“We said that it’s our last year and we’re finally going to take it and leave it as a legacy for us,” Ng said. “We were the freshmen and the only two that made the team in Grade 9, so it’s been the full experience for us. We finally took it this year and we’re just so happy.”
Photo: The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Trailblazers mob goalkeeper and captain Eric Stinciu to receive their championship medals. Stephen Sweet photo.