Cowichan LMG’s 4-0 win over Gorge in Ladysmith last Saturday may have clinched the first Vancouver Island Soccer League title in Cowichan history, but head coach Glen Martin knew the work was done long before that.
"We won the league at the start of the year," he was quick to point out. "We didn’t win it tonight."
LMG started the season on a tear, winning their first 10 games. They stumbled a little after that, with three ties and a loss among their next five matches, but sealed it all up with a dominant victory last Saturday.
"It’s been a long time coming for Cowichan soccer," Martin said of the league title. "It feels good to win it. It gets the pressure off. It was starting to build."
Martin is in his 10th season coaching Cowichan’s Div. 1 entry. The team had placed second in the league in each of the last three years, including once when they missed first place by a single point.
"This is a tough league to win," captain Jesse Winter said. "There are 18 games, and you’ve got to play them all."
Cowichan got off to a strong start against Gorge. Romaie Martin scored his first goal for Cowichan – it would turn out to be the title-clincher – eight minutes in off a nice pass from Paddy Nelson. Brad Thorne banged home the next goal from a scramble in front of the net. The third goal came from Kevan Brown, finishing off a play by Connor Crichton, and Nelson wrapped up the scoring with his 14th of the season on a pass from Keevan Webb.
"We got off to a great start," Winter said. "The boys were all fired up."
It was 4-0 at the half, and never changed. Cowichan settled back on defence in the second half, making a few excursions into the Gorge end, but never capitalizing.
"I give Gorge credit," Martin said. "They never gave up. They played hard all the way through."
Robbie Hegglund put together a herculean effort on the Cowichan back end, playing all 90 minutes and coming off the field exhausted.
Winning the league puts Cowichan in an excellent place going into the provincial tournament, something the team has had its eyes on winning for some time.
"It’s awesome," Winter said. "It sets us up for provincials. Now we have a guaranteed home game. We’ve said it for a number of years that we want to make a jump in provincials."
Defender Brad Archibald has been with Martin the entire 10 years in Div. 1, while Winter and Thorne have been around nearly as long. Winter gave Martin his due for the endless work he has put in.
"You’ve got to give it to Coach," he said. "He’s the man. He does everything for us, and we love him for it. He hasn’t missed a practice in 10 years."
Even though his team has the league locked up, Martin doesn’t plan on taking it easy over the next two weekends. Cowichan will visit Bays this weekend and host second-place Vic West on Friday, Feb. 6, and Martin wants to go out with two more victories.
"We’ll definitely try to win the next two games," he said. "I hope we don’t have a letdown, but that can happen. We’ll treat them like normal games that we want to win."