Captain’s late goal leads T-Birds to Friendship Cup

The Cowichan Secondary School Thunderbirds won the AAA division of the Friendship Cup tournament.

The Cowichan Secondary School Thunderbirds made a big statement last weekend when they opened the field hockey season by winning the AAA division of the Friendship Cup tournament at Shawnigan Lake School last weekend.

Cowichan captain Sophia Murray scored the lone goal of the final as the T-Birds toppled defending provincial AAA champions Shawnigan Lake School 1-0 for the title.

Murray’s goal came with less than 10 minutes left to play, when she took a pass at the top of the circle and hammered it into the left corner of the net. Cowichan managed to hold off the Shawnigan attack for the remainder of the game.

“Winning the Friendship Cup was a great way to start this season,” Cowichan coach Perri Espeseth said. “Although it is a small tournament that is meant for fun and to introduce teams to the new season, it is a great learning opportunity for every team as they test out their new roster. I was really impressed with the level of play that the girls brought to the field in our first games together. They played as a team, they had open ears to feedback and worked hard every game.”

Both teams had opportunities to score during the game, and Cowichan goalie Robin Fleming made several big saves to keep her team alive.

Shawnigan coach Kelly Koepp felt her team played its best hockey of the tournament in the final against Cowichan.

“All in all, I was very pleased with the progress the team showed over the course of the tournament and the great commitment and willingness to learn and improve,” Koepp said. “The girls would have deserved to win the final, no doubt. But it is the beginning of the season and a lot of time to work on a couple of things in order to beat them next time.”

The Frances Kelsey Breakers finished third in the AAA division, beating Mount Douglas handily in the bronze-medal game. All three of the top teams got past fellow top-division entries Mount Doug and Oak Bay with little trouble, but Kelsey coach Ali Andersen was also pleased with the way her squad played against Cow High and Shawnigan.

Cowichan defeated Kelsey 3-1 in round-robin play, but both coaches felt the game was even closer than the score suggested.

“It was back-and-forth play,” Andersen said. “It was a good game. It could have gone either way.”

Kelsey and Shawnigan played to a scoreless draw.

“That was an excellent result for our girls,” Andersen said. “We have a small roster this year, and we are fairly young. It’s an exciting thing for us to have some good results in our first tournament. I’m happy with how the girls played.”

Brentwood College School had two teams in the AA division that they hosted, placing third and fourth behind St. Michael’s University School and Little Flower Academy and ahead of Glenlyon Norfolk.

“With very little practice time under their belts, the teams take to the field and learn by trial and error,” Brentwood coach Alanna Martin said. “By the end of the weekend, there are aches and pains, but the teams have improved  exponentially and are starting to gel.”

Cowichan Secondary will host the John Ferreira Memorial Tournament at the Cowichan Sportsplex this Saturday and Sunday.

Cow High, Kelsey and Shawnigan will be teaming up later this fall to host the provincial championships at the Sportsplex and Shawnigan’s fields.