The Cariboo Hill Chargers got what they came for - a provincial medal.
Although the eastside Burnaby school was denied a place in the B.C. high school AA boys' provincial soccer final, the Chargers went out with a hard-earned victory, defeating the Notre Dame Jugglers 2-1 in the consolation final at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex-West on Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours after a devastating 1-0 loss to eventual finalist Archbishop Carney in the semifinals, Cariboo earned its second provincial medal in as many years on goals from Justin Dhaliwal and junior James Szabo, with the second-half game-winner.
Notre Dame's Adriano Clemente got a late counter off a corner to make it close, after a number of huge stops by Cariboo keeper Juggi Dosanjh.
"We felt like we had to do it for the school," said Chargers midfielder David Genet, who chipped a perfect through ball to an attacking Dhaliwal, who one-timed the pass over the goalie in the 40th minute for the only goal of the first half. "We didn't want (the loss) to bring us down. A (district) banner and a bronze medal is pretty good."
And few would disagree.
Last year, the Chargers found the sponsorship they needed and went on to finish a surprise runner-up in the 2011 provincial final.
At this year's tournament, Cariboo easily won its Pool D against Sands, Sa-Hali and St. Michael's University without a single goal scored against.
But in the semifinal crossover match, Carney spoiled Cariboo's chance to earn a second consecutive spot in the high school final with a goal in the final second of added time.
"It was a heartbreaker," said Chargers' coach Carlo Bolognese. "But they came out with game faces and they worked so hard, and they deserve it. I'm just so proud of them right now."
Dhaliwal and Kirk Menezes both collected three goals at the provincial tournament.
Dhaliwal and Menezes both scored in a 2-0 win over Sands in the tournament opening game on Monday.
Dhaliwal, defender Andy Hehar and Alejandro Castelblanco all tallied in a 3-0 win later in the day.
Menezes closed out pool play with both goals in Cariboo's 2-0 victory over SMU to top Pool D.
Okanagan Mission won the gold-medal final 2-1 in a shootout over Archbishop Carney.
In the bronze-medal final, Cariboo had numerous chances at goal in the second half, but as many pivotal saves at the other end as well.
Hehar was a game-saver for Cariboo Hill early in the latter half, clearing away a hard shot directed at goal after Dosanjh had to come out of the goal to stop a partial breakaway.
Later in the game, Dosanjh got a lucky hand on a ball after a miscue in front, and the rebound was skied over the bar.
The Charger goalie also got a toe on a hard shot from Clemente in the final minutes of play before smothering the rebound.
"People wanted to give up, but we couldn't," said Dosanjh. "We said, 'If we didn't win gold, we had to take something.' We wanted to do it for everyone who has supported us all season long."