The road back to the SHSAA high school soccer championships have been different for the St. Mary Marauders’ boys and girls’ programs.
After finishing in fourth place at last year’s tournament in Prince Albert, the Marauders girls’ are headed to their second straight provincial championships this weekend in Saskatoon, where they will start things off with a 9 a.m. quarter-final contest against the Holy Cross Crusaders of Saskatoon.
“I think the experience that the returning girls have from last year gives us an advantage,” Marauders head coach Jamie Zurakowski said.
“There’s always a bit of nerves when you go the first time and I don’t think that will be an issue for us.”
Meanwhile, the Marauders’ boys program have reached the provincials for the first time since 2016, when they won the consolation title in Regina over the Carlton Crusaders.
They will open up their tournament slate at 9 a.m. Friday in Swift Current as they’ll go up against the Centennial Chargers of Saskatoon.
“Everyone’s really looking forward to it, especially since we’re staying in a hotel for the first time this year,” Marauders head coach Dale Regel joked.
“Obviously it’s going to be a different experience for them and we’re going to be playing teams that we haven’t seen yet this season besides Warman, but we’re looking forward to it.”
The Marauders clinched a spot in the provincials by earning a bye to last week’s 5A North regional final at Prime Ministers’ Park, which they ended up losing in a tight 2-1 affair with the Warman Wolverines.
“I thought that was our best game of the year,” Regel said. “I’m really proud of the way that that the boys played, especially in the second half as they matched Warman’s physicality.
“The experience that our younger guys have gotten through their tournaments this year is really starting to show and I think we’re moving in the right direction as we go to Swift Current.”
The winner of the Marauders and Chargers quarter-final contest will take on either the Swift Current Colts or the Miller Marauders in a semifinal game Friday afternoon.
The other side of the bracket features the Wolverines, the Centennial Chargers, the LeBoldus Golden Suns of Regina and the Weyburn Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Marauders’ girls team solidified their second straight trip to the provincials with a 1-0 win over the Carlton Crusaders in a regional semifinal game last Friday at Prime Minister’s Park.
They then dropped a 3-2 decision to the Wolverines in the final.
“I thought we played really well against Warman and we had the lead on a couple of occasions, but we just ran out of legs at the end,” Zurakowski said.
“What I like the most about our team is how they’ve really come together as a group, which was noticeable in the game with Warman as they helped out our Grade 9 goalkeeper a lot.”
The winner of the quarter-final contest between the Marauders and Holy Cross will then face either the Swift Current Ardens or the Campbell Tartans of Regina in a semifinal matchup.
The Wolverines, Golden Suns, Eagles and the St. Joseph Guardians of Saskatoon are also in the field.
Both of the provincial championships will wrap up on Saturday.