ELGIN – They knew it would be tough, but they got it done.
The Rideau District High School girls soccer team will compete in the Eastern Ontario A championships (known as EOSSAA) in Alexandria on Tuesday.
The Lions advanced to the regional tournament by winning the Leeds Grenville (LGSSAA) title at home against St. Michael on Thursday. Rideau scored late in the second overtime half to edge the visitors 5-4.
"Every time we play them, it's always a good game," Lions coach Scott Halladay said in an interview Friday.
Rideau and St. Michael had convincing wins in each of their each of their regular season and semi-final games. The Lions had only given up one goal heading into the final and had never trailed in a game, but that changed five to six minutes in on Thursday when St. Michael opened the scoring.
"Even when we were down, we just kept going," said Emma Bracken, one of the Rideau captains. "We made sure not to get our spirits down and we just kept pushing through."
"They never got flustered, never got frustrated," stated Halladay, who added he is proud how the Rideau players handled adversity and stuck to the game plan.
"That's what you want to see... how they react," the coach said.
The game was tied 2-2 at the end of the first half. The Lions grabbed their first lead of the afternoon with about five to six minutes left in the second half, but the Mustangs evened the score with about two minutes to go in regulation.
Rideau went on to win LGSSAA late in the second overtime by putting in a rebound that had bounced off the crossbar.
"We held our ground; we knew we were going to get something," said Bracken, who acknowledged the game could have gone either way.
"We were very evenly matched," she added.
When asked about expectations for EOSSAA, Halladay indicated he would "love" to see Rideau make it to the playoffs on Wednesday. He noted the 2022 Lions are "a really young group," that has been getting better through the year.
Bracken, who is in Grade 12, is the only player whom Halladay had coached on the Lions before the pandemic. As with other teams that had been sidelined the past two years, the Rideau squad had to come together quickly when soccer returned this spring.
"I didn't know what to expect going into it," the captain said, "and the girls have far exceeded my expectations."
Bracken knows the competition at EOSSAA will likely be tougher.
"That's okay; we're just going to keep pushing," she said. "We'll see how it goes."
Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times