Devin Jack moves into position for Cowichan United during their 2-0 win over Bays last Sunday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Devin Jack moves into position for Cowichan United during their 2-0 win over Bays last Sunday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan United closes in on provincials

First-year U21 team just one win away

A win in either of their next two soccer games will put Cowichan United into the provincial U21 championships.

The two George Smith Cup finalists are guaranteed a berth, as are the top two teams in league play. By winning their next cup game, against Prospect Lake in Victoria this Sunday, Cowichan will earn a spot in the final. Cowichan could also move into the top two in their league by beating Lakehill in their last league game on March 18.

Cowichan head coach Tyler Hughes likes having multiple options, although the situation comes with some pressure.

“It would be great to get into a cup final,” he said. “You play all year to get into games that mean something. You have to embrace the pressure and feed off it. If you handle it right, it can make you perform even better.”

Cowichan kept alive their chances of finishing in the league’s top two by beating Bays United 2-0 at Dave Williams Field last Sunday. Due to illness and injuries, and possibly because they couldn’t move up in the standings and have been eliminated from cup play, Bays only fielded nine players for the match.

“It would have been nice to have a competitive game,” Hughes acknowledged. “But having said that, it was good to get three points.”

Hughes’s team, which was also missing five players for various reasons, got goals from Devin Jack and Luke Armstrong in the win, while Braeden Nash earned his first shutout of the season.

Unfortunately, Cowichan lost the services of all-star Addison Kits for half of that match and their next league game after he was handed a straight red card after hitting a Bays defender in the face while attempting a bicycle kick. Kits will still be available for his team’s next cup game.

“He’s a big player for us,” Hughes said. “He plays in the centre of the pitch, he’s a hard-working guy and a real team player. It’s a big hole to fill.”

The next two games are United’s biggest of the season, as a win in either one will send Cowichan to the provincial championships in the team’s first year of existence.

Cowichan plays Prospect Lake in a George Smith Cup semifinal at Layritz Park this Sunday. Prospect sits fourth in the U21 division, four points back of Cowichan. Prospect won the first meeting between the teams 4-2 at Layritz in October, but Cowichan prevailed 3-1 in both subsequent matches, in Duncan in early December and at Layritz on Feb. 2.