A confident Cowichan 49ers club booked a return trip to the provincial masters A soccer semifinal with a 3-1 win over ISCF Columbus in a quarter-final showdown at the Sherman Road turf on Sunday.
The 49ers reached the semis of the Deryl Hughes Cup two years ago, in their first year of existence, then lost in the quarter-finals a year ago. With three full seasons of success under their belts, the team was more than ready to take on one of the best teams from the Vancouver Metro Soccer League.
“In the past, when one of the top VMSL teams has come over, we’ve always been the underdogs, we’ve been expected to lose,” Cowichan head coach Kevin James observed. “But we knew we could play with them; we knew we could beat them. After 15 or 20 minutes, we realized that these guys are good, but we are as good, or better.”
James had scouted Columbus when they played a first-round game against Cowichan’s Island rivals from UVic, so he was prepared, changing his team’s formation to a more defensive 4-5-1. Columbus came out strong, as expected, but aside from allowing a penalty shot goal, Cowichan weathered the storm well.
“The first half, they had the majority of play,” James acknowledged. “We started to settle in, and it was a competitive half after that.
“In the second half, we started to play our game. We were more confident and comfortable with the ball.”
Tyler Hughes scored Cowichan’s first goal around the 70-minute mark, and George Thomas put the 49ers ahead about 10 minutes later. Neall (Rocket) Rowlings took a feed from Dale Aune and carried it down the right side before sending the ball to the middle for Thomas to fire it into the top corner. Another 10 minutes after that, Rowlings added insurance with a beautiful finish of his own
“It went pretty much according to our game plan,” James said. “Defend for the first 20 minutes, then play our game from there.”
This Saturday at 4 p.m., the 49ers will host PCOV from Vancouver, and something will have to give, as neither team has lost a game since mid-January. PCOV finished sixth in the 10-team VMSL O35 Premier division, but knocked off first-place Coquitlam Metro Ford in the cup final.
“It’s two teams who have been on a bit of a tear; two cup winners,” James said. “Even though they were in the middle of the pack, they’re undefeated since Jan. 11. They’re a team that’s been on fire. I’ve never seen them play, but I can tell you, if they beat Metro Ford, any team that can take points off them is solid.”