Prior to last Sunday’s Jackson Cup final, Cowichan FC coach Glen Martin had talked about how closely matched his team and Saanich Fusion were.
He was absolutely right. The teams matched each other chance for chance for more than 105 minutes in the Vancouver Island senior men’s soccer championship game at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park, and it wasn’t until the second overtime that Saanich was finally able to score, and Cowichan went down 1-0. "It was too bad someone had to lose," Martin said, speaking not just as a coach, but as someone who enjoyed watching the teams battle it out.
"It was actually kind of fun to be part of that game," he said. "It was a pretty entertaining game. I was glad it didn’t have to go to penalty shots."
Like his coach, Cowichan captain Jesse Winter wasn’t surprised that the teams were even for so long.
"They’re always close games [with Saanich]," he said. "Today was their day, but we’ll have ours again."
After an early barrage by Saanich, Cowichan had the bulk of the scoring chances once things settled down. Despite getting shots from in close, Cowichan lofted a few shots over the net, and hit three crossbars in the game: two by Steve Scott and one by Dan Cato.
It was immediately after one of those crossbar shots that Saanich’s Paddy Nelson – the top scorer in Div. 1 during the regular season – carried the ball down the field, got behind the Cowichan defence and beat goalie Bob Stankov as he stepped out to challenge. Cowichan still had chances to score once Saanich broke the deadlock, but couldn’t capitalize.
Martin had no feelings of disappointment after the game. Everyone on the roster got into the game, thanks in part to the two overtimes, and everyone who played contributed.
"I was proud of how the guys played," he said. "They played their hearts out. They left everything out there."
Martin dubbed Scott his team’s "man of the match."
"He had his best game," the coach said. "He had five chances to score. He was a handful; he was more of a headache for them than Paddy Nelson was for us. He was too big and too strong."
Stankov made his share of brilliant saves as both teams kept the opposing keepers occupied – Saanich’s Josh Menzies was named game MVP, and Stankov would have received serious consideration had Cowichan won. Stankov, who came out of retirement after seven years away from Div. 1 to play in Cowichan’s cup run, set the tone early with a pair of big stops.
"It’s the dream of any goalkeeper to start a Cup final with two big saves like that," he said.
Knowing they still have the Provincial Cup championship to play for, the Cowichan players were quick to shake off any disappointment from Sunday’s defeat. "You always want to win, but you can’t be too down on yourself," Winter said. "This is important, but it’s not everything."
The draw for the provincial tournament was held on Monday evening. In the first round,Cowichan face will West Coast FC Selects, the fourth seed from the Fraser Valley on the road on April 12.