Partially obscured by the club’s massive trophy haul, Cowichan LMG goalkeeper Darian Achurch (front row, third from left) and Cowichan 49ers sniper Stu Barker (front row, second from right) and other Cowichan players and coaches celebrate a successful night at the VISL awards. (VISL photo)

49ers’ Barker leads Cowichan trophy harvest

Four trophies for masters soccer sniper, 10 in total for Cowichan club

Stu Barker was starting to raise the ire of his tablemates at the Vancouver Island Soccer League awards banquet last Saturday.

After collecting the Masters A division MVP trophy, the Alex Hylan Memorial Trophy as Tony Grover Cup MVP, the Lou Garraway Memorial Trophy as Masters A scoring leader, and the Golden Boot for the most goals in the entire VISL during the ceremonies at the Distrikt Nightclub in the Strathcona Hotel, the Cowichan 49ers striker was starting to take up too much space.

“We told him he’s got to get his own table,” Cowichan 49ers head coach Kevin James joked. “There was no room for all of his stuff.”

Barker’s haul was just the tip of the iceberg for Cowichan’s senior men’s teams. The 49ers also received the Masters A championship trophy and Tony Grover Cup. Cowichan LMG were presented with the Garrison Cup as Div. 1 league champs for the fifth year in a row, and the first-ever Cup Winners Cup (played between the winners of the Garrison and Jackson cups from the previous season, and Darian Achurch was named the Div. 1 Goalie of the Year. Not to be left out, Cowichan Red Arrow were honoured as Div. 4B champions.

Barker scored 29 goals over Cowichan’s 17 league games. for comparison, the next highest total in the masters age group was 16 by Dean Anderson of UVic Alumni, and the next most in the VISL as a whole was 19 by Mahdi Hammoud of the Div. 2 Victoria Highlanders.

There’s nothing easy about putting up numbers like Barker did this season, James insisted.

“A lot of people don’t realize, whether it’s a tap-in or a 30-yard volley, goals are hard to score,” he said. “Guys like Stu make it look easy, but one bad bounce, you can still hit it square and miss the net.”

The 49ers knew Barker had run away with the masters scoring title, but hadn’t kept tabs on the other leagues, so the Golden Boot came as something of a surprise.

“We didn’t know how many goals anybody else had scored,” James noted.

Barker was particularly productive in the early and late portions of the season, with a bit of a lull in the middle.

“He started strong,” James commented. “He was doing so well, then he went through a bit of a low. He was putting too much pressure on himself and trying too hard to score.”

Neall (Rocket) Rowlings provided plenty of support with nine goals, the fifth-best total in the masters division.

“Neall started scoring some goals, which took the pressure off Stu,” James said. “He could relax a bit. There wasn’t the pressure of being the man who has to score goals for us.”

Rowlings also led Cowichan in the Tony Grover tournament with five, and tied Gorge’s Francesco Cortini for the tournament lead.

Not directly tied to goal-scoring totals, Barker’s MVP award is voted on by the other teams in the league.

“These are votes that came from all the different teams,” James pointed out. “It’s being recognized by all the other teams in the league.”

Barker and the 49ers have a bye through the first round of the provincial championships, and will play all their games at home until the final in Nanaimo. Their next game is on April 27 or 28 against the winner of a first-round game this weekend between UVic Alumni and Columbus FC from Vancouver.

“UVic is a top-notch team,” James noted. “We beat them once and they beat us once [in league play]. Columbus, we don’t know what to expect, but we know anyone in the provincial cup is a darn good team.”

VISL Div. 1 champions Cowichan LMG will open their provincial tournament this Saturday at home on the Sherman Road turf against Bays United.

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