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Three Cowichan teams win Island Invitational Cups

U18 boys, U17 and U16 girls claim titles
Caden Jack of the U18 Cowichan Grizzlies lines up a cross pass during his team’s penalty kicks win over Comox Valley United at the Island Invitational Cup last weekend. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Three Cowichan Valley Soccer Association teams emerged victorious as the Island Inviational Cup finals were played at the Sherman Road soccer facility last weekend.

Cowichan’s U16 girls, U17 girls and U18 boys all won their matches, which saw the Lower Island Soccer Association Gold league winners face the Upper Island league winners. Two other Cowichan teams, the U14 girls and U14 boys, suffered narrow defeats in their games.

For the U18 boys Cowichan Grizzlies, their 3-2 win on penalty kicks over Comox Valley United had special significance.

“It was a good game,” coach Al Longair said. “Both teams enjoyed it. What was special for us was that it was the last game of youth soccer for 11 of the boys, so to go out on a win was a great thing.”

With a strong wind blowing across the pitch, Cowichan made the decision to play with the wind at their backs in the second half. Comox took advantage of the wind and took a 2-0 lead into halftime, but the Grizzlies’ gambit paid off. Cowichan got a quick goal from Cordell Jack to start the second half, then kept pressing and saw Miles Boulton score on a penalty to tie it. The Grizzlies won the penalty-kick round 4-2.

“We avenged a loss to them from two years ago,” Longair said. “They’re a wonderful team to play. Their coach, Tony Dickson, is a great guy. He manages them very well. They come out and have fun.”

Boulton was picked by his teammates to serve as captain for the day, and then earned game MVP honours as selected by the opposing side.

“He’s a tireless worker on the field, a tremendous player; he has been all year,” Longair said. “For the five years I’ve been coaching these guys, he’s been one of the quiet leaders on the field.”

Of all the games played by Cowichan teams on the weekend, only one was a blowout: the U16 Cowichan Lightning’s 6-1 win over Oceanside.

“We had one of our strongest games of the season,” said coach Tanis Ballard, whose team got three goals from Anna Corbett, and one each from Robin de Valk Zaiss, Marissa Morris and Raya Rowan, and an outstanding defensive showing from Jizelle Balae, who was named game MVP.

“It was a great performance,” Ballard added. “The girls used the entire field. They really took everything they learned throughout the season and put it in play.”

The Lightning lost only two games all season. Unfortunately one of them was the provincial qualifier, so the team’s year came to an end at the Invitational Cup.

“It was definitely a dominant season,” Ballard said.

The only Cowichan team to qualify for the provincial tournament this year is the U17 Chaos, who won their Island Invitational game 2-0 over Harbour City. The Chaos opted to play with the wind in the first half, and took the lead on goals by Kylie Kidd and Ricki-Anne Keen. Harbour City had more of the play in the second half, but Cowichan held strong.

“Our defence did a good job of not giving up chances,” coach Brian Johnston said. “Defensively, the whole team did an excellent job of dealing with the pressure.”

Mariah Thomas, who found out just the day before that she will be on Team BC at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto this summer, was named Cowichan’s game MVP.

“She’s playing very well right now,” Johnston said.

The Chaos have qualified for provincials and have also reached the finals of the Coastal Cup tournament, which will take place in Aldergrove next weekend.

“The core group has been together basically since U13,” Johnston noted. “They’re really starting to gel right now, which is great.”

Johnston also coached the U14 Cowichan Crushers, who lost 2-1 to Campbell River.

“It was a pretty even game in the first half,” Johnston said. “They went up 2-0, but it was pretty even. They were just able to capitalize on a couple of chances. They may have had a few more chances than we did.”

Game MVP Jayda Lauzon scored from a goal-mouth scramble with about 15 minutes to go in the second half. Johnston had been looking for someone to step up and provide offence after leading scorer Aisha Werner injured her ankle just days before the game, and Lauzon ended up filling that role.

“She had some chances, some semi-breakaways, she was a bit of a threat up front,” the coach said.

Serena Lalani also had a fantastic game at centre back.

Cowichan pushed hard for the tying goal, but it never materialized.

“We put a lot of pressure on them in the last 10 minutes,” Johnston said. “I think we probably deserved a tie out of it.”

Cowichan’s U14 boys team was tied 1-1 with Campbell River at the end of their match last weekend, but ended up losing on penalty kicks.