The Cowichan Thunderbirds placed sixth at the AAA Provincial Field Hockey Championships in Surrey Nov. 9-11. (Photo courtesy of Heather Goodman)

The Cowichan Thunderbirds placed sixth at the AAA Provincial Field Hockey Championships in Surrey Nov. 9-11. (Photo courtesy of Heather Goodman)

Cowichan’s T-birds place sixth at AAA field hockey provincials

“The senior girls had a great season and a great end at the AAA provincial tournament”

The Cowichan Thunderbirds field hockey team placed sixth at the AAA field hockey provincials tournament in Surrey Nov. 9-11 despite winning more pool games than some of the teams who ultimately placed ahead of them.

“The senior girls had a great season and a great end at the AAA provincial tournament,” said coach Perri Espeseth. “Although we didn’t quite finish where we had set our goals the coaches have been extremely proud of how far they have come and improved throughout the past two and a half months. They played so well as a team, and have a lot to be proud of.”

With only five returning players from last year, it was a solid performance for the team, who had to gel quickly to be competitive.

Led by returning seniors Grace Paddle, Ruby Sangha, Ella Goodman, Kaitlan Hall, and Grade 11 players Hannah Doman and Ava Winter, the team beat OKM 5-0 to kick off the tournament.

“The team started out with a bang, were very strong out of the gates against OKM, dominating the play,” Espeseth said.

Devery Luxmoore led the way with a hattrick.

From there the girls eked out a 4-3 victory over eventual third place finishers, Churchill to wrap up pool play in first place.

“The team was a little slow the start and were down 0-2 at the half, but the fire was lit and with some incredible goals and determination — one especially beautiful chip shot goal from international student Marie Traub — we won,” Espeseth said.

The team was well on its way to a Top 4 finish, their goal for the tournament.

Things took a bit of a turn in the quarter finals, however, when the T-birds fell to Heritage Woods in a shootout for their first loss of the event.

“We were not able to connect passes and create scoring opportunities,” Espeseth said. “Heritage Woods scored on us at the beginning of the second half which turned on our lights and we then felt a sense of urgency.”

The team began working together, and was able to score to tie it up on a beautiful penalty corner play finished by centre mid Ava Winter. But ultimately the game ended in a draw, which meant their fate would be determined by shoot outs to see if they would advance.

“We unfortunately lost in the shootout which determined that our goal of top 4 would no longer be possible,” Espeseth said. “It was a devastating way to start day two, and after some tears, we were able to reflect on the lessons learned and how to move forward.”

The loss bumped the T-Birds into the consolation bracket.

From there, the girls battled back, dominating Eric Hamber 3-0 to move on to their final game: a battle for fifth place.

“Kelowna is always a tough team to play, as they always have strong athletes that are tall, fast and aggressive,” Espeseth said. “We knew it would be a tough match and it would be important to have a presence, be strong on the ball and never give up.”

Goalie Ruby Sangha was outstanding in net, making some incredible game changing saves. In the end, the T-birds fell to Kelowna Secondary 1-0, to finish the tournament in the sixth place position.

It was the last high school field hockey action for some of the players.

“We say goodbye and good luck to our Grade 12 players: Grace Paddle, Ruby Sangha, and co-captains Ella Goodman and Kaitlyn Hall,” Espeseth noted. “And we also say good bye to our international players: Marie Traub, Anna Jordan, Hannah Engel, Alix Stevens and Isabel Gella.”

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