The Cowichan 49ers’ phenomenal first season finally came to an end last Sunday with a crushing 6-0 loss to Coquitlam Metro Ford in the provincial semifinals at the Sherman Road turf.
After finishing second in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s masters A division by the narrowest of margins, then winning the Tony Grover Cup as Island over-35 champions, the 49ers went on a run at the Deryl Hughes Cup, making it through three rounds before bowing out last Sunday.
“It was a sour note to end on,” Niners head coach Kevin James admitted. “But the only thing that could have been better about this season would have been winning provincials.”
Loaded with former professionals, Metro Ford are the defending provincial and western Canadian champions, but the 49ers were able to match them in the first half, going to the break down just 1-0 thanks to a strong showing by stalwart goalkeeper Rob McIntyre.
“We played with them for 50 or 55 minutes,” James said. “Then they made a whole bunch of subs, and the guys they brought on the field were just as good. They’re so deep in talent, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Coquitlam scored a couple of quick goals to start the second half, and Cowichan just couldn’t catch up.
Based on the results of Metro Ford’s first few provincial games, James knew they would be a tough opponent, but wasn’t going to concede the match.
“They’ve been going through pretty much every team, handling them with no problem,” he said. “We went into the game not changing our format, except for a couple of small adjustments that worked for the most part.
“The bottom line is we lost to a better team. They kept coming and coming and coming and we couldn’t stop them.”
The remarkable first season gives Cowichan a solid foundation for next season.
“I think we will be stronger next year,” James said. “We’re going to be a team to reckon with in provincials, not only in the Island league.”
The 49ers goal this season was to finish in the top four in the VISL masters A league. They did that and more, essentially tying for first place, then winning one cup and making a serious bid for another.
“I don’t think we did better than we should have,” James said. “I think we proved we belonged. Our goal for next year will be to compete for the league title, win the Grover and win provincials. We want to win it all. I think we’re capable. I think we have most of the pieces of the puzzle.”
James expressed his gratitude to the fans that turned out for home games, especially in the playoffs, something virtually unheardof for over-35 soccer.
“Obviously Div. 1 and Div. 2 get good crowds, but I think the Valley took to our team,” he said. “It really helped us, having the support from the fans. At the level we’re playing, I haven’t seen a fan base like ours, and teams that came over [from the Mainland] said the same thing.”