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Niners make B.C.’s final four

Cowichan beats Port Moody 3-1 to reach masters soccer semifinals
George Thomas converts a penalty kick for the Cowichan 49ers’ game-winning goal over Port Moody Rangers at the Sherman Road turf last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

The upstart Cowichan 49ers, in just their first year of existence, have battled their way into the provincial semifinals.

The 49ers beat the Port Moody Rangers 3-1 at the Sherman Road turf on Saturday afternoon to get that much closer to the B.C. masters soccer championship.

The match showed once again the Niners’ ability to adjust on the fly as they won yet another game over a team they knew nothing about going in.

“It was a really good game,” Cowichan head coach Kevin James said. “It was one of our toughest games yet; that unknown factor makes it tough.”

What the Niners did know was that the Rangers were an offensive powerhouse, something goalkeeper Rob McIntyre and the Cowichan defence braced for.

“They had a lot of chances,” James said. “You could see why they scored as many goals as they did. But our back line was solid and Robby Mac made some huge saves to keep us in it.”

Henry Nelson opened the scoring for Cowichan with a bicycle kick goal in his first game back after an injury that kept him out for most of Cowichan’s cup games. After Port Moody evened things at 1-1, George Thomas restored Cowichan’s lead with a successful penalty kick. Darcy Penner added some insurance for the Niners in the second half.

Darcy Kulai was picked as Cowichan’s Man of the Match.

“He played a really strong defensive game for us,” James said. “He kept their big guns in check and he probably ran a marathon for us.”

With centre back Adam Taft sidelined due to an injury, Richard Lord slid into his spot from centre midfield and helped solidify the pack in front of McIntyre.

A consistent effort from start to finish made the victory possible.

“This time of year, you can’t afford to have any lapses,” James said. “And I don’t think we had too many.”

Cowichan will face the defending provincial and western Canadian champions, Coquitlam Metro Ford, in the semifinals. Bolstered by a couple of ex-Vancouver Whitecaps, Coquitlam is especially solid in the middle of the field and up front.

“I had a chat with the [Port Moody] coach, and he said they’re pretty much running everyone into the ground,” James reported. “They’re scoring a lot of goals. It will be a David-and-Goliath game, but I’m 100 per cent confident with the guys and their ability. I know we’re in tough, but any time you can get into the semis of the provincial tournament in your first year… We’ll go at them like we’ve gone after everyone else and hope for the best.”

Taft will return from his injury for the semifinal match, and the make a few adjustments based on Coquitlam’s scoring power for the match on Sunday at 12 p.m. at the Sherman Road turf.

“We’re hoping for a big crowd,” James said. “Having the fan turnout we had [Saturday] was big. We’re the last team in the entire Vanvouer Island Soccer League still playing in provincials, so having the home crowd on our side is huge.”