Duncan Christian’s Cameron Joe checks a Chemainus Secondary player during a game at the Island single-A boys championships at the Cowichan Sportsplex on Oct. 17. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Duncan Christian prepares for soccer provincials

The best soccer teams from B.C.’s smallest high schools will gather in the Cowichan Valley this week as Duncan Christian School plays host to the provincial single-A boys soccer championships from Thursday to Saturday.

The hometown Chargers hope to be in the mix to finish in the top half of the 16-team field, a goal coaches Chris Muller and Ian Smith believe is within the squad’s reach.

“I think that would be fair in terms of how well we play and how we’ve seen some of the other teams play,” Muller said.

“We have a good young squad with lots of talent, and some up-and-coming students learning the game,” Smith added. “I feel really good about the tightness of our team and I’m looking forward to the experience. It will be exciting for the kids.”

In order to achieve a top-eight finish, the Chargers will have to rank no lower than second in their pool, which includes 2018 B.C. Christian Schools champion Credo, historically strong Immaculata, and David Thompson, the lone representative from the Kootenay region. It won’t be an easy road, but the coaches feel their team is up to the task.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what comes out of those games,” Muller said. “We’ve all witnessed upsets in our lives, and we hope this will be one of those events.”

Duncan Christian’s last appearance in provincials, in 2015, came courtesy of an upset when they knocked off Island power St. Andrew’s in the Island semifinals. DCS held off St. Andrew’s for the entire game, then won it 1-0 on a shot by Ben Henry, a Grade 9 at the time and now a Grade 12 veteran.

This year’s tournament will consist of 16 teams playing in four pools. The first-place team in each pool will go on to the top four, the second place teams will play for fifth through eighth, and so on.

Games will be played at five different fields: the Cowichan Sportsplex and McAdam and Rotary parks all three days, Sherman Road on Thursday and Friday, and Evans Park on Saturday. The Chargers will play all their games at the Sportsplex, unless they end up playing for a position between third and eighth on Saturday.

DCS will open the tournament against Credo on Thursday at 11 a.m., then face Immaculata later that day at 2:45 p.m. They close out pool play against David Thompson on Friday at 9 a.m. Playoffs start Friday afternoon and continue Saturday, wrapping up with the provincial championship game at the Sportsplex at 11:15 a.m.

Up-to-the-minute results are available at www.soccer2018.ca

When DCS has played host to volleyball and basketball provincial tournaments, they’ve been able to use Chemainus Secondary as an additional venue. This time, the Cowichan Valley soccer community has stepped up to make the tournament happen. Support from DCS parents and staff has also been vital, including the assistance of Henrietta Groenendijk, who organized provincial tournaments when her four children attended the school. She has returned to help with the soccer tournament, even though her youngest, Danielle, graduated in 2017.

Organizers are hoping for good weather, as rain could cause field closures, which would have organizers scrambling for turf fields they can use in Ladysmith and Nanaimo.

This is the fifth season that Muller and Smith have coached the DCS boys soccer team together, and a prime opportunity for the school to host provincials.

“They’ve done a great job with our soccer program,” DCS athletic director Tom Veenstra said. “Looking at the team they have, this was a good time to do it. Fifth to eighth is not unreasonable, looking at the talent we have. The time is ripe.”

Muller and Smith are excited to see how it plays out.

“I feel positive,” Muller said. “Anything can happen. We’re not technically the most skillful team, but we work hard.”

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