After decisive wins over Mount Douglas and Claremont to open the Island AAA field hockey championships last Friday, the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds were in the driver’s seat as they entered their last game against Oak Bay on Saturday morning.
The T-Birds needed either a win or a tie in their third game in order to take the Island title. At halftime, however, Oak Bay held a 1-0 edge, having capitalized on a bad rebound off the Cowichan goal post to open the scoring.
“It was a great game by both teams, evenly played, extremely competitive with multiple scoring opportunities for both teams,” commented Cowichan coach Perri Espeseth, whose team was unable to convert on several penalty corners in the second half.
Things changed early in the second half when Chloe Langkammer took the ball at the 35-yard mark and dribbled through the Oak Bay defence to fire a rocket chip past the keeper and tie it at 1-1.
Cowichan goalkeeper Casey Tucker made some great saves in the second half to keep the score deadlocked, including a running slide to meet an Oak Bay forward at the top of the circle to keep it out, and a toe save in the last five minutes to shut down a penalty corner shot from the Bays’ top midfielder.
Late in the match, Cowichan opted to kill the clock rather than risk a loss, and locked up the Island title.
“Knowing that if it was a tie game we would advance as the winners, our captains possessed the ball in our corners to delay time which is a strategy used by many teams in high pressure situations,” Espeseth explained.
The T-Birds opened the tournament on Friday morning with a 4-0 win over Mount Doug, not realizing that those four goals would end up giving them an advantage over Oak Bay in the final standings.
“Mount Doug has some key players up their middle,” Espeseth acknowledged. “But we were able to capitalize early to secure our lead.”
That afternoon, Cowichan defeated Claremont 5-0 in a game that was less than perfect.
“We had moments where we lost our structure and started to lose focus on the things we needed to do against Oak Bay in the final,” Espeseth commented. “It is challenging when playing a weaker team to not play at a lower level, however we were able to refocus on our goals and were prepared to play against Oak Bay in the final game.”
The T-Birds will advance to the provincial tournament in West Vancouver on Nov. 13-15, hoping to improve on last year’s second-place finish.
“We have improved greatly over the past three weeks since Bridgman,” Espeseth said. “And we feel we are going in prepared to AAA provincials.