Craig Gorman leads Cowichan LMG on another Provincial Cup hunt starting this Saturday at 2 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Provincial soccer cup pursuits begin this weekend

With four teams contending for provincial championships, this is setting up as a promising spring for the Cowichan Valley adult soccer community.

Having claimed their fifth straight Garrison Cup as Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 1 league champs, Cowichan LMG enters the Men’s A Cup as the top seed, with home-field advantage all the way through to the finals in Nanaimo in May. That is also the case for the Cowichan 49ers in the Masters A Deryl Hughes Cup. Cowichan United is also in the mix for the U21 Doug Day Cup, and the Cowichan Cougars are battling for the Women’s Masters B Cup.

Two of the teams are in action this weekend, as LMG kicks off their provincial bid on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Sherman Road turf, while United heads to the Mainland to open against Greater Vancouver United on Sunday afternoon.

As excited as Cowichan LMG head coach Glen Martin is to begin another provincial cup pursuit, and as pleased as he is with the team’s favourable draw, he acknowledges there’s something lacking this time around.

Martin’s team hasn’t played a game off Vancouver Island since 2014-15, and travelling or seeing unfamiliar teams is definitely part of the excitement of the provincial championships. Even the final this year will be played on the Island.

“It’s nice to be seeded No. 1 and be at home,” Martin says. “But it would be exciting to play a team we’ve never seen before. The B.C. Cup feeling isn’t there for me.”

Cowichan will open the tournament against Bays United, a team they are perhaps too familiar with. Bays is led by former Cowichan stars Paddy Nelson — who led Div. 1 in scoring with 15 goals this year — and Cooper Barry. Cowichan beat Bays twice in league play this season, but Bays came away with the win in the Jackson Cup quarter-finals. Craig Gorman started this season with Bays, then returned to Cowichan partway through the season and ended up scoring 12 goals with LMG and becoming an MVP contender.

The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner between fellow Islanders Lakehill and Coastal FC from the Fraser Valley Soccer League, so it’s entirely possible Cowichan’s quarter-final opponent could also come from the VISL. The other two Island teams — Westcastle and Mid-Isle — are also on Cowichan’s side of the draw, so there’s arguably a five-in-eight chance of an Island club making the provincial final, something that hasn’t happened in many years.

“It’s a great draw,” Martin comments. “It’s the best chance ever for an Island team to make the final.”

Cowichan United punched their ticket to the Doug Day Cup tourney as one of the top four teams in the VISL U21 Division with six wins, seven losses and four draws, and drew Greater Vancouver United as their first opponent. GVUSC placed fifth in the Vancouver Metro Soccer League U21 division with an 8-5-5 record. The winner of Sunday’s game plays at West Van FC in the quarter-finals.

The two-time VISL Masters A champions and three-time Tony Grover Cup champs, the Cowichan 49ers will get a bye through the first round of their provincial tournament. Their quarter-final opponent could also be a familiar foe as they will face the winner of a meeting this weekend between UVic Alumni and Columbus FC of the VMSL. Like Cowichan LMG, the 49ers won’t play a game off the Island, no matter how far they go.

The last of the four Cowichan teams to begin their provincial tournament will be the Cougars, who open at home on Sunday, April 28 at 10 a.m. against their Lower Island Women’s Soccer League rivals, Gorge FC. The winner of that showdown will meet Galaxy in the semis.

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