The numbers game finally caught up to Cowichan LMG.
The Div. 1 men’s soccer team made it through the entire season with an undermanned roster, winning a league title along the way, but couldn’t get past the provincial semifinal.
Cowichan was edged 1-0 by Langley’s CCB United at the Sherman Road turf on Sunday afternoon, knocking them to 0-4 in provincial semifinal appearances over the last seven years.
“They ran us into the ground,” Cowichan head coach Glen Martin said of the visiting team, which brought 19 players over from the Mainland. The hosts, meanwhile had a roster of 16 available, but that number deceptively included a backup goalkeeper and the injured Jose Muro, who was pressed into service late in the match.
“When you’re competing with as small a roster as we have, there’s no room for error,” Martin said. “One year we got to the semis with 17 players, and I still said that wasn’t enough.”
Injuries to captain and starting centre back Jesse Winter and starting left back Joel Harry put Cowichan behind the eight ball in the first half, not only wearing out the other players but also severely depleting the back line.
“We got tired,” Martin said. “It got to us. We ran out of steam. They gave it all they had. No complaints. It was a tough battle.”
The game was scoreless at halftime, which suited Cowichan just fine.
“We had been outplayed a bit, but we had some chances to score,” Martin noted. “They came at us pretty hard.”
The plan was to continue playing the way they had been and generate a goal one way or another — which usually happened for Cowichan this season, but didn’t work out this time. Instead, CCB got on the board with an ugly one at the 78-minute mark.
“You could tell we were getting tired at the back end,” Martin said.
Even if Cowichan had prevented that goal or found a way to tie the score at 1-1, they would have been in trouble in extra time, Martin acknowledged, and might not have had a full squad for the final.
The close loss was not without its heroes, including a pair of 24-year-olds in the centre of the pitch.
“I thought Kevan Brown and Colin Knight were really good for us in the midfield,” Martin said.
Steve Scott, Keevan Webb and Govinda Innes also had strong outings, and Darian Achurch was outstanding as usual in goal.
Reflecting on the year, Martin felt his team overachieved based on preseason expectations by winning a fifth-straight Vancouver Island Soccer League title — one shy of the league record — and reaching the provincial semi.
“It gets tough when it gets to the end,” he said. “There were only four teams left in the province, and we were one of them.”
Martin vowed to have more players available once his team reaches the cup and provincial playoffs next year.
“That’s my job, to fill the roster up with at least 18 players,” he said.
Along with the returning core of players, Martin will have assistant coach Ryan Flynn back next year as well.
“He has done well with training sessions,” Martin said of Flynn. “He’s very committed, he likes to win, and he knows how to win.”
As always, Cowichan will be looking at game-by-game success to lead them to league and cup titles.
“Winning the league is a byproduct of being prepared every week,” Martin said. We try to win every game we play — that’s how we approach it.”