Pickering came from behind to lift the Women’s U19 Reserve Division trophy after a late header forced a 1-1 draw and a goal-filled penalty shootout against North Toronto Nitros at the Ontario Soccer Centre on Monday.
Kyra Walker scored the decisive 6-5 goal in the seventh round of penalty kicks to claim the title, after North Toronto’s effort was saved by Alexandra Orr. The match seemed to be out of reach for Pickering until a last-gasp corner kick in stoppage time found Taylor Fazzari, whose thumping header levelled the score and forced a shootout.
It’s a tough one to swallow for North Toronto, who had controlled play for most of the match and seemed to finally get the better of their division rivals, who had handed the Nitros their only two losses on the season.
Pickering spent most of the first half in their own defensive end, leaving much of the possession to North Toronto, and couldn’t seem to connect things offensively when it came to counter.
North Toronto nearly scored after 20 minutes, when a low shot from Ravina Sandhu forced Pickering keeper Orr to make a diving save. Sandhu was the orchestrator for several first-half chances, and caused a Pickering defender to be cautioned after stealing the ball in the midfield and making a break for goal before being hauled down.
The game opened up in the second half, with a goal nearly coming immediately after the restart when a Pickering throw-in to the back post just missed the head of substitute Alexa Hardie.
North Toronto’s Alexus Worrell was brought down in the penalty box in the 61st minute, and the division’s top scorer Cara Therrien put it away from the penalty spot, leaving the keeper frozen in place.
Down a goal and with less than 30 minutes to go, Pickering threw everything they had on and around goal, including a free kick that seemed destined for the back post before Tamara Lisser deceptively averted its course to the near post, but Nitros keeper Emma Klein was equal to it and kept her side ahead until the very end.
Pickering captured the championship after posting a division-best 31 points from 12 matches in the regular season, and only conceding five goals.