RBNYFL 24: Pro Series edge Matura ReUtd in thrilling T’dad Girls U-20 final


Tasha St Louis never missed a penalty during her illustrious career as a forward for Trinidad and Tobago. Her mantra for taking penalties is simple: “Choose a corner. Keep the ball on the ground.”

St Louis’ pithy penalty-taking aphorism might have been on the mind of her Pro Series FC player, Laila Birks-Mabote, as she stepped up to take her team’s eighth penalty in the shootout to decide the Republic Bank National Youth Football League (RBNYFL) Trinidad Girls U-20 final on Saturday at the Republic Bank Sports Club in Barataria.

Pro Series players look on hopefully during a penalty shootout against MIC Matura ReUnited in the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground on 8 June 2024.
Photo: 12 Media/ RBNYFL

Just a few minutes before, the final ended 3-3 with three goals in the last eight minutes. Birks-Mabote came into the game in the 83rd minute, just a minute after MIC Matura Reunited scored to level the game at 2-2.

She was barely on the field a minute when her teammate Scarlette Cole fired Pro Series FC back in front after a lightning counterattack made the score 3-2.


Then another two minutes later, dread—as national youth star Orielle Martin bundled the ball across the line for another Matura Reunited equaliser.

Birks-Mabote barely touched the ball during those heady last seven minutes of the game before the penalty shootout started.

Pro Series defenders Mikaela Yearwood (#23, pink) and Laila Birks-Mabote (partly hidden) make a vain attempt to keep out MIC Matura ReUnited midfielder Orielle Trotman’s equalising goal during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Within 10 minutes, the ball was at her feet, the score was 5-5 in sudden death and she had seen the last three penalties missed.

Birks-Mabote picked her corner and fired a right-footed shot goalward.

Stand-in Matura goalkeeper Luann Craig went the right way… Too late!

The ball zipped under her body and Pro Series FC were champions!

“Choose a corner. Keep the ball on the ground.”

Pro Series player Laila Birks-Mabote (right) is congratulated by teammates after her decisive penalty against MIC Matura ReUnited in the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Once again that simple phrase St Louis held so dear during her career had brought her another title. This time as a coach.

“This is how I like to see women’s football played,” St Louis told Wired868. “We play football to the very end, compete against each other and push each other.

“It is not just good for yourself, it is good for the nation and for women’s football in Trinidad and Tobago. So I love to see that. We are actually getting somewhere with women’s football.”

MIC Matura ReUnited midfielder Cherina Steele (left) finds her path blocked by Pro Series midfielder Emma Collins during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Pro Series Events founder Paul Decle, who is also Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) High Performance Programme coordinator, described it as a “great advertisement for women’s football in the country”.

“It was an amazing game—up and down all the way through, like what a good final should be,” he said. “Credit to both teams. They fought right down to the end.”

Matura ReUnited coach Desiree Sarjeant used the word “awesome”.

MIC Matura ReUnited captain Kiana Sandy (foreground) tries to beat Pro Series attacker Scarlette Cole to the ball during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“I am so proud of these ladies because to come from behind on two occasions and to bring it to where it was,” said Sarjeant. “I am extremely proud of what they were able to do today.”

Decle is the National Men’s Futsal coach, while St Louis and Sarjeant are former national players. Collectively, they have probably forgotten more football than most of us have seen.

Yet at the end of the game, all three were left starry-eyed and awestruck by the match they witnessed.

MIC Matura ReUnited midfielder Orielle Martin (foreground) turns away from Pro Series attacker Rori Gittens during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

That Game—as the players, coaches, and spectators in Barataria will probably refer to it in the future—began just after 3pm, with Matura as the favorites to win.

Matura ReUnited beat Pro Series 2-1 in the preliminary round, and the latter hoped to tilt the redemption arc their way in the final.

In their ranks were five players from the Women’s National Senior team which played in the Queen’s Friendly Tournament in Curaçao last week.

Pro Series players pose before the camera before kickoff against MIC Matura ReUtd in the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Mickaela Yearwood, who played in goal in national colours, was installed in central defence alongside right back Kanika Rodriguez.

Mariah Williams and Hackeemar Goodridge played in the midfield, with Rasheda Archer on the left side of an attacking three.

As for Matura, Cherina Steele was used as a solitary holding midfielder in front of the back four, with her national teammate, Martin, as the attacking midfielder.

MIC Matura ReUnited players are ready for action against Pro Series in the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

The favorites drew first blood after just two minutes. Prolific forward Tyeisha Griffith dribbled free of the Pro Series defence and slotted past goalkeeper Alexia Dolland to give Matura the lead.

Matura dominated the first quarter of the match and carved out several chances, which were expertly dealt with by Pro Series central defenders Yearwood and Calypso Young.

When Martin and Griffith got beyond the defence, Dolland was on her game.

Pro Series goalkeeper Alexia Dolland (foreground) hangs on to the ball during RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final action against MIC Matura ReUtd at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“At the end of the day, the information I have to give always has to be positive,” said St Louis, as she helped her team weather the storm. “The good things that they are doing, you keep encouraging them to do that and I thought they would be able to build from there. They did.”

As Matura’s opening salvo started to wane, Pro Series midfielder Mariah Williams saw more of the ball. And her expert dribbling and precise passing started to cause problems for the Matura defence.

“As always when you take an early lead like that, you expect to push on,” said Sarjeant. “Unfortunately, we didn’t. They probably took their feet off the gas a little bit.”

MIC Matura ReUnited forward Tyeisha Griffith (left) is watched closely by the Pro Series defence during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Pro Series began to win free kicks in the Matura half, and Goodridge made one count.

After forcing a save from Matura goalkeeper Mercedes Balthazar just a few minutes before, Goodridge got her next effort to dip precipitously in the 23rd minute.

Balthazar, who was impeded by a defender, could not lay a glove on the long-ranged effort and Goodridge brought her team level.

Pro Series midfielder Mariah Williams (right) attempts a cross during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final against MIC Matura ReUtd at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Buoyed by the equalizer, Pro Series started to hum with the front three of Archer, Rori Gittens, and Daneelyah Salandy combining well.

Salandy started to find space on the right flank and, in the 34th minute, made it count as her slightly mishit cross-cum-shot caught the Matura Reunited custodian grasping at air and swerved into the corner for the go-ahead goal.

Undaunted, Matura took the fight to Pro Series and almost equalised twice late in the first half.

Pro Series captain Daneelyah Salandy (bottom) is congratulated by teammate Kanika Rodriguez during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final against MIC Matura ReUtd at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

First, Griffith weaved through the defence and shot overbar before Martin’s thunderous, dipping drive from outside the box was touched onto the bar by Dolland.

Pro Series still led 2-1 at the half.

During the interval, Sarjeant told the Matura players that the game was a long way from over.

MIC Matura ReUtd forward Tyeisha Griffith (foreground) signals for the ball during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final against Pro Series at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“At 2-1, anything could change in a moment’s notice,” said Sarjeant. “We told them to keep their heads up and tried to address the things that they weren’t doing too well.

“We addressed the things we were doing well and could do a little bit better. I think the girls went out there thinking they can do something to get back into the game.”

Pro Series got the first great chance of the second half, though. Archer was hacked down in the box and referee Nathalya Williams pointed to the penalty spot.

Pro Series forward Rasheda Archer (top) is fouled by MIC Matura ReUtd player Luann Craigg during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Pro Series queued up to take the set piece, but Archer fought them off. A minute later, she must have regretted that decision.

Archer went for power rather than placement and blasted the penalty high over the bar.

The miss seemed to deflate Pro Series and the tide turned again.

Pro Series forward Rasheda Archer (background) prepares to blast her penalty beyond MIC Matura ReUtd goalkeeper Mercedes Balthazar but over the bar during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Dolland did well to push away a Griffth attempt for a corner. But she was left rooted to the spot as a leaping Craig headed in substitute Jodi Harrigan’s perfect delivery in the 83rd minute.

The ink used to mark Craig’s name in the match commissioner’s notebook barely dried before Pro Series restored their lead.

Archer ran at the Matura Reunited defence, taking two opposing defenders with her. As they closed in, she released the ball into the space created for substitute Scarlette Cole to fire into the top corner of the net.

Pro Series substitute Scarlette Cole (left) celebrates her late goal with teammate Rori Gittens during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final against MIC Matura ReUtd at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Pro Series were leading again with six minutes to go!

“Finding character in a final like this is not an easy thing,” said Decle, “and they really showed, after a slow start, that they had the grit, the belief, and we fought our way back into it very well and stayed with it for the rest of the game.”

However, Martin refused to give in.

Barely two minutes after seeing her side surrender the lead again, the Matura playmaker chased down a hopeful ball over the Pro Series defence and held off two defenders to nudge under the opposing keeper for an 86th minute equaliser.

MIC Matura ReUtd midfielder Orielle Martin (left) celebrates her late equaliser against Pro Series with teammates Shurella Mendez (centre) and Tyeisha Griffith during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Three goals in three minutes with four minutes to play!

Martin won the coin toss and opted to kick first in the shootout. By then, both teams had surprised supporters by emerging from their respective camps with new personnel between the pipes.

Pro Series replaced Dolland with national goalkeeper Yearwood, and Balthazar was swapped out for Craigg in the Matura goal.

MIC Matura ReUnited goalkeeper Mercedes Balthazar.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“[Craig] wanted to keep,” said Sarjeant. “She has kept before and she wanted to keep. So, we said, ‘You want to keep. Why not?’”

Harrigan successfully converted Matura’s kick before the first dramatic moment of the shootout ensued. Cole hit straight at Craig and the Matura goalkeeper held on to give her team a 1-0 lead.

Trusted to extend the lead, Craigg hit her kick to the left of Yearwood, only for the Pro Series custodian to make a brilliant save.

MIC Matura ReUnited players watch on nervously during their penalty shootout with Pro Series in the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Jaeda Wilson converted for Pro Series and the game was tied again at 1-1 with two penalties each.

Both teams successfully converted their next three penalties to leave the tie undecided at 4-4.

In sudden death, Griffith converted for Matura before Archer rattled in her kick off the underside of the bar.

Fans at the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final arguably witnessed the game of the season as MIC Matura ReUnited and Pro Series served up a thrilling affair at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Then, Matura Reunited blinked.

“Too many players try to take the ball off the ground which makes it more difficult to score the goal,” said St Louis. “It is easier for the keeper. Keeping the ball on the ground, choosing a corner, and tucking that ball away is the best way to score a penalty.”

Matura’s Shurella Mendez fired a weak shot in the air, which Yearwood caught. And, with the title on the line, Gittens went in to finish off the match—only to see her kick clang off the bar.

MIC Matura ReUnited substitutes get excited during their seesaw RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final with Pro Series at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Matura substitute Jayda Herbert then also shot tamely at the goalkeeper and Pro Series had another shot to win the title.

“Choose a corner. Keep the ball on the ground…”

Birks-Mabote converted and Pro Series were crowned Trinidad champions at the Girls U20 level.

“Right now, it is a very emotional feeling—not just for me, but the entire squad, the players, the staff, all those who helped behind the scenes, working for this very day,” said St Louis. “We are all emotional and very, very happy.”

Sarjeant insisted there were no losers on the day.

“We achieved what we wanted to achieve,” she said. “We wanted to get this far in the competition and more so, we wanted to highlight women’s football; and I think [with] a game like today’s, that was done.

MIC Matura ReUnited midfielder Luann Craigg (standing) moves away from Pro Series midfielder Mariah Williams during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“As long as I can play my part to make women’s football be recognized in this manner, I am all for it.”

Decle commended sponsors Republic Bank for the tournament for teenaged girls.

“Exposure for players seems to be increasing as we go along and more opportunities are opening up,” he said. “In that regard, it is an important part in the building of football in our country. It takes up an important part of the calendar where the girls have competitive football for an extended period.”

Pro Series forward Rasheda Archer (front) tries to hold off MIC Matura ReUnited midfielder Janella Walcott during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Pro Series will now play the Tobago winners, Tobago Chicas, in the national final from 2pm on Saturday at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria.

(Teams)

MIC Matura ReUnited (4-1-4-1): 1.Mercedes Balthazar (GK); 8.Ahmeeda Bowman (9.Jessica Harrigan 46), 2.Akira Charles, 4.Kiana Sandy (captain), 5.Jada Cummings; 6.Cherina Steele; 14.Trishell Charles (13.Jayda Herbert 72), 12.Luann Craigg, 10.Orielle Martin, 11.Janella Walcott (19.Shurella Mendez 46); 7.Tyeisha Griffith.

Substitutes: 3.Ria Roberts, 8.Jodi Harrigan, 15.Eva Nicholas, 16.Bryanna Vesprey.

Coach: Desiree Sarjeant

Pro Series FC (4-3-3): 1.Alexia Dolland (GK); 15.Kanika Rodriguez (24.Laila Birks Mabote 83), 23.Mikaela Yearwood, 26.Calypso Ayoung, 27.Mateja Leben; 4.Hackeemar Goodridge (10.Jaeda Wilson 90+2), 11.Khloe Kirton (16.Emma Collins 46 [20.Renallia Constantine 80]), 6.Mariah Williams; 19.Daneelyah Salandy (9.Scarlette Cole 69), 28.Rori Gittens, 7.Rasheda Archer.

Substitutes: 2.Anrielle McSween, 5.Naima Julius, 8.Evanna Elcock, 12.Arianne Hosein, 14.Chelsea Richards, 22.Kaitlyn Darwent, 25.Ameila Johnstone, 29.Giavanna Gilkes, 32.Lexi Sankersing.

Coach: Tasha St Louis

Referee: Nathalya Williams

Pro Series head coach and former Trinidad and Tobago stand-out Tasha St Louis (far left) celebrates with her players after they edged MIC Matura ReUtd via kicks from the penalty mark during the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

RBNYFL U20 Girls Trinidad final

(Saturday 8 June)

MIC Matura ReUnited 3 (Tyeisha Griffith 2, Luann Craig 82, Orielle Martin 86), Pro Series FC 3 (Hackeemar Goodridge 23, Daneelyah Salandy 37, Scarlette Cole 84) at Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria.

*–Pro Series FC won 6-5 via kicks from the penalty mark.

Love in the house!
Pro Series captain Mikaela Yearwood (left) and midfielder Mariah Williams celebrate after their thrilling win over MIC Matura ReUnited in the RBNYFL Trinidad Girls U-20 final at the Republic Bank Sports Ground in Barataria on 8 June 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

RBNYFL U20 Girls National final

(Saturday 15 June)

Pro Series FC vs Tobago Chicas, 2pm, Republic Bank Sports Ground, Barataria.

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