Another Ontario Cup. Another crack at a national title.
Winning never gets tiring for the London Forest United Flames. There's one thing that would complete a tremendous run for this group of girls and that would be a national championship.
The Flames won the under-18 girls' Ontario Cup last weekend. The final went to penalties when the Flames and Oshawa Kicks couldn't break a 1-1 tie after regulation and extra time. The Flames were perfect from the penalty spot, winning 5-4.
It was the fifth Ontario Cup win in six years for many on this team. The Flames' only failure to win the Ontario Cup was in their under-15 year. The Flames won their under-13 Ontario Cup on penalties against Mississauga.
Their experience in big games and pressure situations gave coach Anthony Camacho confidence his club would be able to deliver.
"I had great confidence," Camacho said. "They've been in it before and been in penalty shots before. It was a little nerve-racking, but it was a good situation for us."
The Flames opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a goal from Carla D'Onofrio, with Geneva Winterink tying it up just before the half. The second half and extra time saw Flames goalkeeper Bridget Wood making several big saves, including one in the dying minutes that would have given the Kicks the victory.
"It was good. It was interesting. The girls played well and fought hard," Camacho said.
Now it's on to Quebec in October for the national tournament. It will be the third opportunity for this group to win a national title. They've won silver.
"The girls really wanted a chance to go back again to the nationals. They wanted another shot and now they have it," said Camacho. "It just seemed to me that they were a little hungrier this year.
"I'm happy for the girls who won the silver medal last time at the nationals, to get another chance at it. They've worked hard to get here."
This was a team geared for the under-18 championship. Most of the players are young enough to play under-17.
A number of other local teams are still in the hunt for an Ontario Cup title and a possible national championship berth.
Ontario Cup action is in the quarter-final or later stages and will resume next weekend.
Local teams still seeking a championship are Dorchester Rock in the boys' under-14; London City Flash, under-14 girls; Strathroy Middlesex United, under-15 boys Tier II; London Supernova, under-16 girls; Sarnia Bluewater and St. Thomas Titans, under-17 boys Tier II; London Benfica and London AEK, men's; London City Lady Selects, women's.
Two local teams will head to Ottawa, where they'll take part with seven other teams in the Ontario Summer Games to decide Ontario Cup champs.
London City Cobras under-15 boys are in a round-robin group with Vaughan United, Woodbridge Strikers and North Scarborough Strikers. The winner will advance to the final against the winner of a second round-robin group for the Summer Games and Ontario Cup championships.
London Supernova 91 will play in an under-15 girls round-robin group with Sault Civics, Brampton Brams United Storm and Mississauga Clarkson Comets for the right to advance to the final.
Play begins Wednesday with the final next Saturday.
So far, so good for Clarke
Stephanie Clarke has one soccer championship under her belt.
A second one may be around the corner.
The Londoner was the only local area player who was a member of the Ontario under-14 girls team that won its age division at the national all-star championship held recently in Saskatoon.
Team Ontario defeated Quebec 3-0 to win the gold medal.
Clarke is also a member of the under-14 London City Flash. The Flash, one of the teams favoured to win an Ontario Cup championship, has reached the quarter-finals of that competition and plays Kanata Lightning next Saturday in London.
Clarke's older brother, Matt, plays for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and her sister, Andrea, is a former SPECTRA Award winner, starting her fourth year on a volleyball scholarship at UMBC in Baltimore.