After winning the Tony Grover Cup, tying for the Vancouver Island Soccer League Masters A league title and reaching the semifinals of the provincial tournament in their first season of existence, the Cowichan 49ers are looking to keep the momentum going this year.
The Niners got their second campaign off to a strong start as they won their league opener and the first game of the McGavin Cup tournament in the span of three days.
Cowichan beat Nanaimo 2-0 on Sunday to start the VISL season, getting goals from Brad Peterson and Stu Barker and a shutout from Rob McIntyre. They kicked off the McGavin Cup chase on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Prospect Lake’s Div. 3 team, on goals by Chad Bastion and Darren Meiner.
The 49ers prepared for the season with some training matches against Div. 1 powerhouse Cowichan LMG, hoping the higher pace and skill level would rub off on them. The masters team managed a tie against LMG, as well as a pair of defeats.
“We had one decent result and got it handed to us in the other two games,” Niners head coach Kevin James said. “It made for some good interclub bonding with the two teams.”
The 49ers bolstered their championship-winning roster from last year with some new signings for this year, including Cowichan Div. 1 veterans Tyler Hughes and Brad Thorne, as well as Peterson, Dave Tuckey and Todd Vass from Nanaimo, Tim Harris and backup goalie Preston Johnny.
The Masters A division is down to just four teams this season and James anticipates a lot of parity between the clubs. Still, he believes his team will be among the better ones.
“We’re looking to have another strong year this year,” he said.
The Niners play their home opener at the Sherman Road turf this Saturday at 6 p.m. against Gorge FC Backfit. James hasn’t seen Gorge’s current roster yet, but he doesn’t really need to.
“Gorge is Gorge,” he said. “They’re always strong.”
The Cowichan team was known throughout the league last year for its enthusiastic fan base, and James hopes that carries over to this season as well.
“We’re hoping we get a good following again,” he said. “To build on what we started last year.”