The Cowichan Cougars came up just short of a provincial title, falling 1-0 to Meralomas United in the final of the masters women’s B Cup at Nanaimo’s Merle Logan Field on Saturday.
The Cougars outplayed and out-chanced Meralomas, but the Vancouver team brought more players to the match, which ended up making a vital difference under the hot sun.
“It was a really hot day to play soccer,” admitted coach Darian Achurch. “The other team had more subs and even though we are the better team, we just ran out of gas.”
The game marked the first trip to the provincial final for the Cougars in their first time qualifying for the provincial tournament. It was also the first appearance in a provincial final by a Cowichan adult soccer team since 1998.
The teams traded scoring chances in the early going, with sniper Stacey de Lusignan — Cowichan’s leading goal-scorer this season — creating chances for herself and others, while Meralomas used their speed up front to force Cougars goalkeeper Sara Tweten to make some big saves.
The game started to settle down, and the Cougars began to dominate play, earning accolades from BC Soccer officials for the possession and passing. Meralomas managed to score against the flow of play, sending a high volley over Tweten’s head at the 28-minute mark. Cowichan pushed hard to tie the game before halftime, forcing the Meralomas keeper to make several saves.
The Cougars continued to push after the break, but couldn’t break through the staunch Meralomas defence. Meralomas created chances of their own on the counterattack, but Tweten held her ground, stopping a pair of breakaways to keep the game close.
Exhausted in the waning minutes, the Cowichan players refused to give up, creating two more chances inside the box, which the Meralomas keeper saved, helping her earn the shutout and MVP honours.
“We gave it everything we had,” Cowichan midfielder Amanda Sidhu said. “On any other day the bounces might have gone our way and we would be the ones hoisting the cup. It just wasn’t our day.”
A sizable contingent of fans travelled to Nanaimo to support the Cougars or watched the game online, for which the Cougars expressed their gratitude. Achurch expects that the core of the team will return for another provincial title bid next season.
Also in Nanaimo on the weekend, the men’s A Cup and masters men’s Deryl Hughes Cup finals were won convincingly by Mainland teams who had narrowly defeated Cowichan squads in the semis.
The Cowichan 49ers lost their semifinal 2-1 in extra time to PCOV, who went on to won the masters men’s A Deryl Hughes Cup 4-1 over West Van FC on Saturday. Cowichan LMG had lost their semifinal 1-0 to CCB United who won the men’s A Cup 4-1 over Rino’s Tigers on Sunday.