For the second time in three years, a Cowichan Valley team has won gold at the Cal Cup field hockey tournament.
The win last month matched Cowichan’s achievement last time a team from the Valley attended the tournament, in 2012. Cowichan has a long history of sending teams to the massive event in Thousand Oaks, California.
"It was really exciting," said coach Alyssa Davidson, who played in the Cal Cup herself, when she was in Grade 9. Sponsored and supported by Cowichan Field Hockey, the team was organized by manager Heather Goodman and consisted of 16 girls from Cowichan Secondary and Frances Kelsey.
The Cowichan team was among 16 in the U16 division at the tournament, divided into four pools of four, with the top team from each pool advancing to the playoffs. The format put the teams under a lot of pressure.
"Unfortunately, the way they scheduled it, if you didn’t place first in your pool, you lost your chance at being in the top four," Davidson said.
Cowichan tied their first two games on Saturday, May 24, 2-2 and 1-1, putting themselves, they believed, in a tough spot.
"That made it a little difficult on us," Davidson said.
The other teams were in similar situations, however, and with a win the next day, Cowichan pulled into a three-way tie for first place. The first tie-breaker, goal differential, left them tied with one other squad, but the second tie-breaker, goals for, gave Cowichan sole possession of top spot. After another 5-0 win over the fourth-place team in their pool, Cowichan was into the final four.
Ranked fourth among the four semifinalists, Cowichan faced the top-seeded team, which they knew had out-scored opponents 25-1 in pool play. It turned out to be a team from Vancouver, and some of the Cowichan players knew them from the provincial program. Initially intimidated, the Cowichan players responded well to Davidson’s pep talk and won 2-0 to advance to the final against the defending champions from San Jose. Tied 0-0 after regulation, Cowichan won 4-2 on penalty strokes to take the title.
"I think a major turning point was when we placed first in our pool," Davidson said. "The girls weren’t sure we would, but they were so determined after that."
Davidson credited teamwork with the championship win.
"All of the girls put in a full effort out there," she said. "I was very pleased with everyone on the team."