Having not played a meaningful game in several weeks seemed to catch up to the U17 female Cowichan Chaos in the final game of the provincial B Cup soccer tournament in Surrey last weekend.
The Chaos went up 3-0 in the first 10 minutes of the title match thanks to Emma Dewit’s 13th and 14th goals of the tournament and a free kick by Mariah Thomas, only to end with the silver medal after an impressive comeback by the Kamloops Blaze.
“We started off very well in all our games,” Cowichan coach Brian Johnston said. “We came out flying. They were a good team, but we caught them off guard. Then we ran out of gas a little bit. They’re right at the end of their season, so they were probably a little fitter than us.”
Kamloops started to claw their way back in, and made it 3-2 at halftime, despite some phenomenal work by goalkeeper MacKenna Posey. Kamloops tied the score with about 15 minutes left, just after Cowichan whiffed on a chance to make it 4-2, which would have probably put it away. Thomas and Ricki-Anne Keen had further chances to win the game, but couldn’t convert, and the match went to overtime. The grind of the tournament and the long game got to the Chaos as time wore on.
“They had a little bit fresher legs top to bottom,” Johnston admitted. “Perhaps if we had played in April, the result might have been different. They were deserving of the win on the day, for sure.”
Kamloops made it 4-3 and then 5-3. Dewit scored her third of the game to get Cowichan back within a goal, but Kamloops scored again to ice the win.
“The girls played their hearts out,” Johnston said. “It was nobody’s fault. [The Blaze] were just a good team. They did well to come back.”
Cowichan opened the tournament last Thursday with a 3-3 tie with the Richmond Force, the top team from the Vancouver league and the eventual provincial bronze medallists. The Chaos started strong on two goals from Dewit and one from Emerald White on a feed from Mariah Thomas, which Johnston called “the goal of the tournament.” Richmond ate away at Cowichan’s lead over the course of the game.
“After the first half, we probably should have been up more,” Johnston said.
On Friday, the Chaos collected a 3-1 win over Guildford AC Phoenix from Surrey. Keen used her ability to get behind the defenders to open the scoring, and Dewit potted the next two. Cowichan led 3-1 at halftime, and there was no scoring after that.
Cowichan’s third game of the tournament, against the South Kootenay Storm, was an intense one.
The tie with Richmond, coupled with the fact that Richmond had also defeated South Kootenay 6-1, meant that goal differential could come into play to determine first place in the group, depending on the result of Richmond’s game against Guildford. Because of a rule at provincials that recorded scores can’t have a margin of more than five goals, the ideal score for the third game would have been 5-0 for Cowichan.
Dewit went to work with four goals in the first half and Hannah Tuplin also scored, making it 5-0 at the break. Dewit added three more in the second half, including one on a penalty kick. South Kootenay responded with one on a penalty kick, making it an 8-1 final that went in the books as 6-1. South Kootenay’s penalty goal could have had serious consequences for Cowichan, but Richmond tied Guildford 2-2 in their game, giving Cowichan top spot in the pool.
The other pool was even more of a quagmire, as three teams tied with six points apiece, but Kamloops prevailed based on tiebreakers, setting up the gold-medal showdown.
The Chaos just missed out on an exceedingly rare quadruple crown, having already won the Lower Island Soccer Association U18 league — an impressive feat for a U17 team — as well as the Coastal Cup and the Island championship.
Dewit was Cowichan’s standout performer at provincials, potting 14 goals in four games.
“There was a bit of pressure on Emma without Robyn Zinkan, who was away at a swim meet, and she certainly did respond,” Johnston said.
Dewit wasn’t the only player to come up big when the team needed her, though. Mariah Thomas alone probably set up 10 of Dewit’s goals, Johnston guessed.
“Emma finished, but the distribution to her was also very, very good,” he said.
Other top players for the Chaos included Maiya Modeste, who is off to the North American Indigenous Games next week along with Thomas; left back Kara Labelle, who might have played every minute of the tournament; and Danielle Wince, co-captain along with Dewit, was injured in the game against Kootenay.
“She was one player we missed in the final,” Johnston said.
Another player, Emerald White, learned just after the first game that her younger sister, Poppy, had been diagnosed with leukemia, but persevered through the tournament, heading to the Children’s Hospital after every game to be with her family. That had an effect on the whole team.
“The girls held in a fair bit of emotion during the remaining games,” Johnston said. “There was quite a bit of an emotional release after the final, because we lost, but because of that as well.”