FIVE Rivers Secondary School held their nerve to win the Coca-Cola Girls East Zone Intercol title on penalties over San Juan North Secondary at Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, Arima on Monday. It was the fourth straight East Intercol crown for Five Rivers.
Five Rivers won the shootout 3-2 after the match ended 1-1. Luann Craig, Nicola Bain and captain Kiana Sandy scored for Five Rivers and finding the back of the net for San Juan were Afiya Jacob and Natalia Honore.
Speaking about the win, Five Rivers coach Desiree Sargeant said her team coped with the penalty shootout. "I think they managed it well. We know when it comes down to penalty kicks there are no winners in advance. It could be anybody's game....Our girls held their nerve really well."
Craig and Jada Herbert were the standout players for Five Rivers in attack. Sargeant said they asked the pair to step up in the second half. "When we spoke to them at half-time, we asked them to do a little more and I think with them going back out there with that mindset I think the team lifted their game, and here we are today."
Prior to the penalty shoot-out, it was a battle during the match with San Juan North taking the lead in the 26th minute through Shinika Lewis.
The half-time team talk worked for Five Rivers as they showed hunger to equalise. In the 48th minute, Mercedes Balthazar levelled the match. Herbert showed her speed running with the ball down the right flank, before her shot was blocked by a San Juan defender. Fortunately for Five Rivers, the ball fell to Balthazar who calmly placed the ball into the corner of the net giving goal-keeper Myeisha Cox no chance.
Both teams had their chances to take the lead, but it seemed to be Five Rivers days when Craig made a spectacular clearance off the goal-line to deny San Juan a goal at the death.
Five Rivers team manager Sylvester Sandiford said, "I am extremely proud of the girls. They fought for it. We started off a little slow, (but) we came back into the game. We tried to play San Juan's game and that threw us off a little bit. I am really proud of the ladies, especially taking this win in penalties."
Sandiford said San Juan are always a tough opponent. "They have always given us trouble in the league. We know today was not going to be a walkover."
Sandiford praised the effort of Five Rivers goal-keeper Kertisha Joseph during the penalty shootout.
In the Central Zone final on Monday, Miracle Ministries Pentecostal High School defeated Holy Faith Convent 3-1 at Couva East Secondary School ground.
In the North final on Sunday, St Joseph's Convent Port of Spain added to their North championship title as they got a 3-1 victory over Diego Martin Central Secondary at St Mary's College grounds in St Clair.
St Joseph's Convent got their goals from Charlotte Hadeed and T&T youth player Kaitlyn Darwent, with the other item coming via an own goal from their Diego Martin opponents.
In the National Intercol quarter-finals on Wednesday, Five Rivers will play South Zone champions Pleasantville Secondary at Larry Gomes Stadium. The semi-finals will be contested on Sunday.
St Joseph's Convent Port of Spain, Scarborough Secondary and Miracle Ministries have already booked a spot in the semi-finals. (With reporting by Roneil Walcott).