Sunset women’s football team is enjoying another dominant season and took a step closer to completing the treble by defeating Elite 2-0 in the league on Saturday.
The match at the TE McField Annex was always going to be entertaining because Elite has many youngsters who played for the Cayman national side in January’s Under-20 CONCACAF tournament, as well as veterans who have represented the senior national team.
Sunset’s nucleus of players are expats who over the years have gelled superbly and absorbed the circumstances of those affected by employment and the rollover policy.
Sunset is currently 10 points clear at the top with four games remaining and 12 points available. This weekend, if they beat Scholars International, who have now moved up to second after beating Future 1-0 on Saturday, then Sunset win the league with three games to spare.
Sunset coach Alan Purvis and assistant coach Trevor Murphy have done a great job in the past two seasons. Purvis said, “We didn’t have our best game against Elite but still had enough quality to dominate the game for large spells. The first 20 to 25 minutes was a bit scrappy and we couldn’t seem to find our rhythm.”
Sunset’s passing was wayward, and their composure on the ball was not there either as Elite chased everything to knock them off their stride. After that initial spell, they started to take control and Lesli Tathum hit a great goal, her first for the club which was long overdue.
Sunset kept control for pretty much the rest of the game, despite losing two more key players to injury – Jayme Farrell and stand-in skipper Karlie Cross – in the second half. “Although we won 2-0, we did have other chances to score in both halves,” Purvis said. “I don’t recall our keeper having many, if any, saves to make but Elite did look dangerous when trying to free Shanelle Frederick to run at our defense.
“Our defense was very resilient again and we managed to get the vital tackles in when needed. Both Sophia Dilbert and Jen Cotarelo marked the Elite strikers well and came out on top in most battles.”
Purvis was pleased that Cassandra Bodden had a solid game as sweeper and felt they were unlucky not to add a third goal when Elena Testori headed against the post late in the game.
Testori had earlier scored the second goal when the keeper could not stop her powerful shot from crossing the line although she got a good hand to it.
Despite a growing injury list, including Sunset captain Gisela “GG” Gamba, Sunset marches on.
“We do miss GG, not only for her ability but also her leadership on the field and her composure and understanding of the game,” said Purvis. “Thankfully, we have good options in forward positions, particularly with top scorers Elena Testori and Kathleen Williams, but also with young Natalie Simpson, who has great potential, and Sarah Pinches, who has returned from a lengthy injury off.”
The full extent of Gamba’s leg injury is not known, but they hope to know more this week after further tests. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best that she will be back soon.”
Purvis said they will approach the Scholars game on Saturday, 6 p.m. kickoff at Ed Bush, West Bay, in typical positive spirit. With the President’s Cup already won and retaining the league looking certain, there is only the FA Cup – which they won last season as well – left as a challenge.
“We have a good balance in the team and lots of confidence at the moment,” Purvis said. “Hopefully, we can carry that into our next game. We have discussed going for the treble and it is obviously something we would like to achieve but our main focus is just to keep winning games and the trophies and accolades will come with it.”
Sunset is on a 20-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, stretching back to last season.
They lost two and drew three of their first five games last term and were bottom of the league. Purvis feels they were not actually playing badly but just could not score.
“We changed out tactics slightly and put an amazing run together which took us from bottom to top, and we won the league and FA Cup double.
“We have carried that momentum into this season and have won 16 and drawn four in that run. We’re looking to keep it going as long as we can and hopefully through to the end of the season.”
Bruce Blake, Cayman Islands Football Association first vice-president, said, “Sunset women are clearly having a fantastic season. Having already won the President’s Cup, they are really well placed to retain the league title now. I applaud their excellence and dedication to be champions again.”