Talk about a baptism by fire. With a primary background as a striker, but a touch of goalkeeping experienced mixed in, 15-year-old Allison McLean was thrust back between the pipes as the St Charles Cardinals girls soccer team competed at the Lady Gator Invitational Tournament on the weekend.
That, in itself, was challenging enough. The fact the Cards would finish regulation and overtime of the gold-medal game deadlocked at 0-0 with the Marymount Regals, forcing the winner to be decided in penalty kicks, was more than McLean bargained for.
Turning aside three of the five shootout attempts she faced, the Grade 9 freshman was clearly up to the task.
"I'm originally a forward, so to be put back in net is a lot of pressure," said McLean. "But they're a great group of girls, so welcoming, and it's a lot of fun to play with them."
Ironically, McLean was first introduced to the position of keeper by her neighbour, Aymie Holota.
Holota, who was away for a showcase tournament in southern Ontario, has toiled for years as a defender with the GSSC Impact 1997 girls team. But with a lack of experienced keepers at St. Charles College, Holota filled in admirably last year.
This spring, it appears she has pulled rank.
"She (Holota) wants to play out this year, so I'm filling the spot in net," said McLean.
So far, so good. The Cardinals cruised through tournament round-robin play posting three straight shutouts, including a scoreless draw with Marymount.
The gold medal encounter would follow a similar script, with neither team generating much in the way of scoring chances in the opening half. The Regals' Sara Falvo sailed a kick in from 25 yards out that McLean handled with ease, while St Charles Sarah Mulvenna provided the stiffest test for Marymount's Megan Smith in the opening 30 minutes.
Gradually, the Regals began to assert control over the Cardinals, with a cross from Chantae Robinson to Emily Taylor headed just wide. While both Taylor and Robinson were able to convert on their penalty kick attempts, it would not be enough as Mulvenna, Taylor Portelance and Lindsey Hodgins countered for the Cards, giving SCC a 0-0 (3-2) win.
Regardless of the outcome, McLean appears to be embracing her new role with the team.
"Everyone gets along, so it's a great environment to be around," she said. "They really help you learn."
The Confederation Chargers captured the consolation crown thanks to a 4-0 win over the Bishop Carter Gators, with Marissa Lemega, Alexa Wallace, Stephanie Smuland and Silka Abresch providing the scoring punch.
Following are game results from contests earlier in the weekend:
St Charles 2 (Sarah Mulvenna, Stephanie Martin)
Lively 2 (Abby Carter-2)
Marymount 5 (Courtney Smith, three, Sara Falvo, Chantae Robinson)
Bishop Carter 3 (Morgan Melnek, Melissa Martel, Amanda Savoie)
Confederation 3 (Sarah Smith, Silka Abresch, Shayna Graham)
Confederation 2 (Davida Graham, Sierra Aubertin)
Bishop Carter 1 (Amanda O'Gorman)