Cochrane girls soccer team 'devastated' after disqualification
It was a heartbreaking loss to an otherwise perfect season for the Cochrane Cobras girls soccer team.
After winning all of its preliminary games, including the final, which would have won it the South Central Zone title, the Cobras was disqualified from the tournament in Carstairs, Oct. 12-13. The team also lost an appeal that it put forth in the aftermath of the ruling.
“We were holding onto a little bit of hope,” said Cobras Head Coach Carolyn McLeod. “The committee that saw the appeal was the same that made the ruling, so it’s not a huge surprise.”
The team was disqualified because it had Grade 9 students on its roster. The Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) considers the first year of varsity eligibility Grade 10, according to its 2011-2012 handbook. Soccer is not officially sanctioned by ASAA and there is no provincial tournament for the ladies division.
Calls to the secretary of South Central Zones, Leslie Larson, were returned. Part of McLeod’s frustration is that the varsity eligibility rule was applied to the tournament despite the fact that it isn’t sanctioned. The team has had Grade 9s on its roster in its past five trips to the Zone tournament.
“There was never any notice to say ‘here’s what we’ve being doing in the past’ until the tournament,” she said. “That’s what we have the most trouble with. We were caught blindsided.
“We’ve never not played with Grade 9s. They’re part of our team. It was really strange that all of a sudden, this ruling came out of the blue. It seemed a bit unfair and we were never informed. The whole thing is a bit too ambiguous, but the decision was made and we have to accept it.”
After sweeping its round robin games against George McDougall High School, Holy Trinity Academy and Foothills Composite of Okotoks, the team was to play Holy Trinity Academy in the final and news of the ruling reached McLeod prior to the game, but she didn’t tell the team until after the final whistle went.
“They were on such a high and a win was in sight,” she said. “I wanted them to finish off strong. I honestly didn’t think they’d go through with it and pull that banner out from under them. I sort of held out hope and I didn’t want to throw them off their game. They played the most incredible game.”
As expected, the players’ reactions went from disbelief to disappointment quite quickly after Cochrane High School principal Susan Poole, who had travelled with the team, told them they had been disqualified.
“They thought she was joking,” McLeod said. “Then, the tears started to come when they realized that it was real. The whole team was a mess. It was really hard to watch their emotions going from being on a high to devastated.”
McLeod also said that the team attended the medal ceremony, but weren’t mentioned by the host committee from Hugh Sutherland High School, which left her disappointed.
“I felt like the director could’ve at least said something to their credit,” he said. “The girls were treated like they were cheaters and that’s not how it came to be. We didn’t come to the tournament trying to pull one over on someone. It was the team we’ve always played with.”
McLeod said a silver lining was how strong and dominant the team was in its final tournament of the season. It outscored its competition 24-3 in three games.
“They played incredible,” she said. “We haven’t lost a game in three years and no one can take that away from. They’re such a positive group and they still feel good about how the season went.”