Vaughan Azzurri emerged as the 2016 Women's L1 Cup champions after defeating local rivals Woodbridge Strikers 2-1 (4-2 pk) in penalty kicks.
"I thought we created a lot today," said Vaughan head coach, Carmine Isacco.
"There were some individual errors, and we needed more quality overall in the midfield for sure, but our changes in the back worked and it was about managing the game properly."
Alyscha Mottershead (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Former Canada Women's National player Alyscha Mottershead (21') put the Strikers on the board early in the match after a period of prolonged Woodbridge domination, but the Azzurri pulled themselves together and found a finish through the foot of Danya Fenech (39') after a clever reverse ball from Nour Ghoneim just before the half.
"We outplayed them and probably had about 70 per cent possession," said Woodbridge head coach, Joe Parolini. "This league is about the young players and we had six '99s in the lineup and five on the field."
"I thought we did phenomenal, and I thought our patterns were showing what this league is all about - to give the young ones a chance, to highlight them."
Best chances of the second half came from set pieces and solo runs, with Woodbridge's Taylor Thallheimer and Mikayla Dayes getting into the Vaughan box after driving from deep positions.
Vaughan looked to play through central forward Ghoneim through much of the match, but could not find the necessary combinations to build through to many goalscoring opportunities.
The industry of midfielders Sarah Wong, Ashley Nater and Claudia Piazza was met head on by Woodbridge's centre of April Symes, Alyscha Mottershead and Jalana Ellis as the game drew on, and best chances began to emerge from flank play.
Danya Fenech (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Vaughan's Wong created more and more chances as she located diagonal runs from Fenech and Sydney Hoareaux, eventually finding fullbacks Courtney Douglas and Peyton Lozzi streaking forward.
Neither side could get the important breakthrough however, as both sets of defenders had excellent matches. Particularly outstanding was Vaughan's Olivia Lukasewich, who stifled Woodbridge star striker Christabel Oduro, and Woodbridge's Malieke Dayes and Diamond Simpson, whose close marking of Ghoneim negated Vaughan's favoured forward outlet.
The stage was set for another penalty tie-breaker, the second for both sides after dispatching London and North Mississauga in semi-final penalties.
Stephanie Bukovec (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Vaughan were able to call upon their penalty kick hero, Stephanie Bukovec, who again saved two shots and finished off the game by scoring the final penalty for Vaughan. Her match winning performance earned Bukovec the MVP award.
"We weren't playing for the penalties, we were actually going for the win, but with Stephanie in net our chances were pretty good," said Isacco.
"She is solid, just solid."
"A good leader, had to be good off her line, had to be confident, she did the simple things really well. Everything was just solid. She made a big save when we needed it, and obviously she was fantastic in the penalties."
Photo: Martin Bazyl
Despite the inevitable disappointment of losing the final, Woodbridge's Parolini was proud of his team's performance in the match, and throughout the Cup competition.
He emphasized a greater developmental victory for his players in the big match experience.
"We don't focus on the winning, we focus on the development, and we play our patterns, we play our style, keep possession, and we put the 99s in - it's not like we held them back - because we have to give them experience," he said.
"For us this league is not about winning, this league is about showcasing the Mikayla Dayes, the Sophia Borea's, the keeper Julianna, and Milly at the back," he added.
"Milly doesn't turn 17 until September 29 and she is up against one of the best strikers in the league and has done well. We're not scared. We play and we develop and if the results come, then great, but if they don't - that is the way it is in a league of development."
2016 Women's L1 Cup Champions: Vaughan Azzurri