By Larry Moko
Giovanni Carboni received a golden present for his 55th birthday Thursday.
Coach of St. Thomas More’s senior girls’ high school soccer team, Carboni was awarded one of the gold medals during post-game ceremonies when the Knights captured the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic championship.
More’s 2-1 victory in the final was against the Cardinals at Newman.
Both teams, however, advance to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AAA semifinals on Monday, May 27. The Knights will play host to Oakville’s Aquinas Raiders, while the Cardinals take on the Hayden Huskies in Burlington.
The last time the Knights won a HWCAA championship trophy was 2008.
“Everything I prayed for this year just came true,” More forward Jen Romero said. “Eleven years of not winning … I’m proud of everyone and happy for the school. And a huge part of me just wanted to win it for Mr. Carboni our coach. He puts in so much time and has such passion for the game.”
It was also Romero’s last shot at high school glory. She will be joining the Canisius College Golden Griffins on a soccer scholarship in the fall.
“We felt we had the talent,” Romero said. “We just had to put our minds to it.”
Fourth-place More got the jump on first-place Newman when Grade 9 student Sabrina Cunha scored on a high shot to the corner of the net from near the top of the penalty area mid way through the first half.
“Sabrina also scored the game-winning goal in our semifinal (2-1 over the Bishop Tonnos Titans) with about 40 seconds left in overtime,” Carboni said.
Cunha, incidentally, also trains with Canada Soccer’s EXCEL program in Vaughan.
The Knights then made it 2-0 when Sofia Domanico, on a partial breakaway, lofted the ball over the Newman goalkeeper’s head. The ball then bounced once off the ground before entering the net.
“Newman always has a great team,” Carboni said. “Ironically, I think we played better when we played them the first time (a 3-0 Newman win) than we did today. We just defended better today and found goals when we needed them.”
Carboni, who also coached More the last time it won the championship, said this year’s squad turned things around recently at the All-Catholic tournament in Brantford.
“We made some changes in the way we play and our formations,” he said. “The players started believing after we won that tournament. We became very close as a group. We were also able to get some kids back that were not playing.
“We came here very determined.”
Veteran Tatyanna Burke, who helped Newman to a bronze medal at OFSAA last year, said the loss to More was disappointing but not discouraging.
“They just worked a little harder than us,” she said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted but for sure the next time at GHAC we’ll have our heads in it.”
Burke recently agreed to play Ontario university basketball next season for the Carleton Ravens.
Other members of the Knights are Chiara Filice, Nina Mercuri, Makayla Cherrett, Nicole Costa, Alessandra Chiarot, Julia Webb, Mia Paiement, Emilie Calabrese, Marissa Cino, Lauren Cappelli, Olivia Scibetta, Di Benedetto Claire, Alliasen Miscione, Makenna Williamson, Irelan Scanlon, Lorena Marcone and Maya Dejeto.