Had coach Jake Stanford been guaranteed a pair of fourth-place finishes for his Holy Cross soccer teams entering the Challenge Cup and Jubilee Trophy nationals this past week in Saskatchewan, chances are he would have signed that contract.
“The goal of both teams,” Stanford said Monday evening, “was get to a medal game. We accomplished that, and you can’t lose sight of that fact.
“But losing both games is not good. To come this far, and come so close but to come up short is heartbreaking.”
The Holy Cross Kirby Group men, winners of the provincial Challenge Cup championship this year, lost to the host province Monday in the bronze-medal game in Saskatoon on penalty kicks.
On Sunday, the Holy Cross-Avalon Ford women, who won the all-Newfoundland championship for a third straight year in 2018, going unbeaten in the process, came up short in their attempt for a second straight Canadian bronze medal following a 6-1 loss to Quebec.
The pair of losses were, in Stanford’s words, especially heartbreaking considering they came one year before St. John’s is set to play host to both national championships next October.
In the men’s game, both Holy Cross and Saskatchewan scored on their five penalty kicks before Saskatchewan found the mark again on their sixth shot.
Then Saskatoon Revolution keeper Michael Bandula foiled Andrew Stanford on the sixth Holy Cross kick to seal the Saskatchewan victory.
As for the women, the Crusaders dropped a 1-0 game to British Columbia’s Surrey United Saturday night with just over a minute to go in regulation time.
A win meant Holy Cross would have been in the gold-medal game.
“That’s how close we were,” said Stanford, who piloted both teams in Saskatoon. “Our hearts are broken.”
Monday, Saskatchewan opened scoring in the 40th minutes, and it stayed 1-0 until Steve DeLong pulled Holy Cross even in the 81st minute.
“We pounded the net in the second half,” Stanford said. “If there had been extra time, instead of going straight to penalty kicks, I would have liked our chances a lot.”
It’s not the first time the Crusaders lost the bronze medal on penalty kicks. The same scenario unfolded in Brossard, Que., back in 2011.
“It really sucks to lose this way,” Stanford said. “It’s one thing to lose in regulation time. Somebody has to, right? But to lose this way on penalty shots — and it doesn’t make a difference if it’s soccer or hockey — well, it really stings.”
Holy Cross was 2-1-1 during the qualifying round in Saskatoon. The Crusaders opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over Manitoba, silver medalists at the 2017 nationals.
“We really destroyed them,” Stanford said of the Manitobans, “and that set the tone for the tournament.”
As for the women’s bronze-medal game, Holy Cross and Quebec were tied 1-1 at halftime, but then the Quebecers came out and dominated the second half, with three goals within a four-minute span.
“What do you do?” Stanford said. “They came out and got a quick one (in the second half), and we tried to regroup. But we couldn’t do it.”
Holy Cross was 1-1-1 in qualifying play.
B.C. thumped Ontario 7-3 to win the Challenge Cup gold medal, while the Jubilee Trophy women’s gold went to Ontario with a 1-0 win over B.C.