Matt Arnett of the Cowichan 49ers dribbles past a Vic West player during the team’s last game, way back on Feb. 29.

Adult soccer on the way back, starting with Grover Cup final

2020-21 season will start weekend of Sept. 25

Plans are underway for the return of adult soccer this fall.

But first, there is some unfinished business from the 2019-20 season.

When the season ended abruptly in early March, the Cowichan 49ers were in hot pursuit of their fourth consecutive Tony Grover Cup masters championship, having just dispatched Vic West’s masters B team 4-0 in the quarter-finals.

After going dark for six months, the playoffs will resume this month, with just one game left to play. Of the four semifinalists, only the 49ers and UVic Alumni are ready to return. The other two teams either opted out or couldn’t get their paperwork done in time to return.

Originally scheduled for last spring, the Tony Grover Cup final will now take place at 3 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. No spectators will be allowed, but the game may be livestreamed.

Appropriately, the last two teams standing were the top two clubs in the regular season. UVic finished atop the Masters A standings with a perfect 54 points in 18 games, 13 points ahead of the 49ers. (Cowichan’s other team, the Steelheads, finished third.) UVic won both regular-season meetings between the finalists, beating the 49ers 2-0 on Dec. 14 and 4-1 on Feb. 7.

“It’s kind of nice to be the underdogs for once,” said Neall Rowlings, player/manager for the Cowichan 49ers among other roles in the local soccer community. “Our lineup and health is looking solid. We know who we are playing and we have [head coach] Kevin James at the helm, who has spent his career playing and coaching at the highest Island levels. If anyone can lead us to victory it is him.”

Once the cups are awarded, both the Vancouver Island Soccer League and Lower Island Women’s Soccer Association will begin their 2020-21 seasons. The VISL will begin play on the weekend of Sept. 25, and the LIWSA’s schedule is yet to be determined. Both leagues will play in cohort formats, in groups of no more than four teams at a time, with 14-day quarantine periods before teams can switch cohorts.

There are still some things left to determine, but the players are looking forward to getting back in action.

“One thing we know, we are very fortunate to have an opportunity to play and will be abiding by all of the rules set out by the CDC, the Ministry of Health, Island Health, Canada Soccer, BC Soccer and the CVSA [Cowichan Valley Soccer Association],” Rowlings said.

There are also plans in the works for youth soccer.

“Youth will be a completely different format, likely all local within the club for now,” Rowlings advised. “We have some exciting new ideas regarding that as a board.”

Anyone interested in playing adult soccer should contact Rowlings at neall.rowlings@iconixww.com

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