Cowichan field hockey teams shoot for provincial tourney

With a handful of tune-up tournaments now behind them, the Cowichan Valley’s AAA girls field hockey teams will be taking aim at berths in the provincial championships at the Island tournament coming up this weekend. The three teams all had excellent showings at the Bridgman Cup in Victoria on the Thanksgiving weekend, where Shawnigan Lake School placed second, Cowichan Secondary finished third, and Frances Kelsey was ninth, despite losing just one game.

Shawnigan and Cowichan squared off in the Bridgman semifinals, where Shawnigan prevailed 2-1. Cowichan coach Perri Espeseth would have liked to hold off the meeting with Shawnigan a little longer.

"It was too bad we had to come up against Shawnigan in the semifinal," she said. "We see them as one of our biggest rivals on the Island, so it would have been nice to play them in the final."

Espeseth saw improvement from the team throughout the tournament, which was really their first of the season, having used the John Ferreira Tournament that they hosted to help determine the final roster.

Seniors Kelsey Goodman, Sara Lowes and Beth Corish set a tone for the tournament that their teammates gladly followed.

"They’re all real leaders on the team," Espeseth said.

After getting by Cowichan, Shawnigan faced Handsworth in the final, where they lost in penalties. Not a bad result for their first Bridgman appearance.

"We would have liked to win the trophy, but we took a huge developmental step," coach Kelly Koepp said. "It was a great experience."

Shawnigan led for much of the final, but an unfortunate error led to a late breakaway and Handsworth’s game-tying goal. Shawnigan couldn’t match their opponents in penalties.

The Frances Kelsey Breakers lost just one game all tournament, going 1-1-1 in the round robin tied with another team. Thanks to goal-differential, Kelsey ended up in the consolation bracket, where they went undefeated.

"We developed as a team throughout the tournament," coach Ali Andersen said. "The players started to trust each other more and felt more comfortable as a team."

Grade 12 player Tenneh Bieberdorf and Grade 10 Helen Brancato stood out on defence with their strong play.

The three teams will head to Victoria this weekend for the Island tournament. The top three teams are guaranteed to play in provincials, while the fourthplace squad will get a chance to play for a wild-card berth.

The Breakers are looking for one of those three spots.

"That is an attainable goal for sure," Andersen said. "Hopefully our girls are up for the challenge."

After winning the provincial AA championship in 2011 and 2013, and placing second in 2012, Shawnigan will be looking to play for the AAA title for the first time, having opted to move up a notch. Winning a provincial title isn’t on their minds, yet.

"No. 1 is to qualify and get there," Koepp said. "I’m confident the girls can do it."