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Cedar U19 Girls are SoccerFeva 2023 Champions after defeating ICCA on penalties in the final, whilst Boys team finish third and win fair play award

With a report from Walter Reich, the Cedar Girls (U19) team returned triumphantly from SoccerFeva tourney hosted by American International School of Kingston (AISK) in Jamaica this past weekend. “It was an incredible display of technical football, team work and heart” remarked UEFA A Certified Head Coach John Reilly. The girls played each team in the first round and came away with 4 wins and a draw giving the girls the number 1 seed for the playoff part of the draw.

On day two, each of the three top seeds played each other one more time to determine which two teams would play in the championship game. Both games were close with Cedar Girls beating Lyford Cay International School 1-0 in the first game of the morning with Darci Reich scoring for Cedar and Giada Palladino picking up a deserved clean sheet after some brave saves to preserve the win. Next up would be Jamaica’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy (ICCA) where the Cedar Girls would go on to win a tight match 2-1 to punch their ticket into the final. Goals were provided by Darci and Gabi Jermyn while defensive gems were provided by Zolita Bamford and Ariel Mohamed with Giada once again providing a highlight reel of exceptional shot blocking.

The final would once again pit the Cedar Girls against ICCA. After 7 games of tough, gruelling football under the hot Jamaican sun it was clear that players on both teams would be playing on fumes. “It’s the nature of a weekend tournament” remarked one supporter. “You have to be fortunate to avoid injuries and to ensure you have enough left in the tank for the final game.”

“Expectations were high…but each win on the march to the final brought additional pressure to the girls” noted Assistant Coach Alessandro Palladino. “Many of the veteran girls have played together for years with several members playing in their final SoccerFeva tournament before they venture off to university next year. The pressure had been lingering in the background all tournament long but was clearly front in centre as the referee blew his whistle to start the game. The veteran girls wanted this one badly and the younger girls including Giada Palladino, Catrin Jones and Imogen Allen were feeding off their high expectations.”

The game was as expected a physical game with ICCA providing bruising tackles as they tried to physically wear down the Cedar Girls. Using their technical skills the Cedar Girls would try to carve out chances through their trademark intricate passing but the final finish seemed to be evading them in the most important match. Had they peaked too early? Chances on both ends of the pitch would leave supporters cheering and shaking their heads. Giada, Cedar’s youngest team member would once again come up big with several notable saves while Zolita and Gabi would each have early chances go just wide – both on set plays. Catrin Jones and Imogen Allen provided much needed energy up front but neither could find the back of the goal. Set plays off corners would see Zolita fire one just wide of the goal with her right foot and just over the bar with a thumping header.

Then just as it seemed the game was destined for penalty kicks, ICCA scored a goal out of absolutely nothing with the ball seemingly willing itself past Giada with a bad bounce off some uneven turf. The Cedar bench was in disbelief. How could this happen with literally seconds left on the game clock. But the Cedar girls on the pitch didn’t hang their heads, they quickly grabbed the ball from their goal and regrouped and kicked the ball in the middle of the pitch. Thankfully Catrin Jones managed to keep the ball from going further than then center spot. Darci willed the referee to blow his whistle to restart the game and the referee obliged and while supporters of ICCA could be seen dancing and celebrating their apparent win a string of passes between Zolita and Darci would see Darci fire a 25 yard thunderbolt strike to the bottom right hand corner of the goal. GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!! The ICCA keeper hadn’t even moved an inch. Cedar supporters went crazy, ICCA supporters could be seen with their jaws dropped but one thing in common was the look of disbelief at what had just happened. 1-1….and the referee quickly signalling for penalty kicks on the restart to decide the girls’ winner of SoccerFeva 2023. PK rules were communicated with each team to get three PKs First up was ICCA who would find their low shot to the bottom right corner saved by Giada who would dive low to her right to block the shot. What a save! The save seemed to help take away the pressure from the Cedar Girls. Cedar would then send Darci, the tournament’s top goal scorer to the spot. She would calmly dispatch to the right side of the goal for Cedar’s first goal. Cedar 1, ICCA 0. Next up would be ICCA – a hard shot to the top right corner was palmed away by Giada but not enough to get it around the post. Cedar 1, ICCA 1. Cedar would then send Ariel to the penalty spot. You could slice the tension with a butter knife. She waited for the referee’s whistle and stepped up confidently to score her PK also to the right side of the goal. Cedar 2, ICCA 1. ICCA would score on their third PK which meant that if Gabi scored her PK, Cedar would win their first girls’ international championship. Despite hundreds of supporters watching the game, you could hear a pin drop by that point. Gabi would get a clean strike and score but Cedar’s celebrations were quickly put on hold as the referee was waving the goal off because he had not blown his whistle before Gabi dispatched her apparent tournament winner. Forced to retake the penalty you could see the weight of the moment etched in the faces of all the Cedar players. Emotions were running high. Gabi would take a deep breath, take two steps and GOOOOOOOAL! She turned to celebrate with her teammates and the Cedar boys team who would run onto the pitch to celebrate with the girls.

Meanwhile, Cedar Boys displayed technical skills and aggressive/physical play throughout the boys’ side of the draw. The semi-final game against Hillel Academy, a Jamaican IB School with over 700 students was an incredible game to watch that would end in a 1-1 draw after Rush Broderick had given the Cedar Boys an early lead. To say the game was physical would be an understatement. Had the referee taken a more strict interpretation of football rules, Hillel may have found themselves down a man or two in this match. Instead, both teams would go to PKs to decide who would fight for the Championship Trophy against Lyford Cay International School (Lyford, Bahamas). PK goals from Rush and Tai Thomas would sandwich a save off of Captain Adrian Adam’s well struck PK meaning that the Cedar Boys would have to settle for playing for third place against Lucaya International School (Freeport Bahamas) which they would win in emphatic style with goals coming from Adrian (3), Tai with 1, Rush with 1, Dylan Cline (2). Dylan Foster and Naty Williams would each set up two while Gethin Jones would fearlessly block countless shots to continually frustrate Lucaya’s strikers and Johan Blok would narrowly miss a clean sheet.