PARRSBORO - The girls are having a heck of a year.
The Parrsboro Midget Predator Girls are off to the Midget "A" provincial championships later this month, after winning their final playdown series against Cape Breton recently. They will become the first local female team to make it to provincials, an accomplishment that coach Matt Smith has seen coming for years.
"I wouldn't say everything happened in one year," said Smith. "I'd say it's a progression over the last couple of years. It's learning the skills of hockey, learning the game, the positioning, the plays, and finally starting to put it all together."
The success of female hockey in Parrsboro began about a decade ago, according to the coach.
"The first female team here was about eight or nine years ago," he recalled. "So it took that long to get here, and now that they're here I think they'll be good for years to come."
This confidence comes even with the knowledge that several of the leading players will be lost to graduation this year. The result of that has been a lot of hard work from all of the players, coaches and a tremendous commitment from parents, he said.
The team saw the fruits of that labour against Cape Breton, winning two out of three games in the hard fought series in Port Hawkesbury. The first game saw them defeat the Highlanders 2-1, only to lose 2-0 in the following game, and then finally win the deciding contest 3-1.
"We've been working hard all year for this," said Smith. "That was our goal at the start of the year, to make it to provincials."
That may have been the goal then, but now they are not about to settle for just making it there. Parrsboro has already played all but one of the other participating teams, and Smith is confident in how they compare to the opposition. The provincial tournament will take place during the March 31 weekend.
Meanwhile, several exhibition games and tournament are lined up to keep the team in game shape. Although four players are now on vacation in Florida, they are running and exercising to stay in shape, according to their coach, who commended them for their commitment.
It is perhaps not surprising that this is the same core group of girls that also competed at provincial championships in soccer and softball during the past year.
"Being in a small community, you have athletes that learn every sport as they go," said Smith. "No matter what they are playing they pick it up. Honestly, I think it has a lot do with the girls there, but it has a lot do with their commitment, their parents' commitment, and their coaches' commitment, to make sure they have good opportunities."