Cowichan LMG earned a draw and a loss in their Vancouver Island Soccer League season opener against Westcastle at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday afternoon.
Confused? That’s understandable.
For the second year in a row, Cowichan played for the Cup Winners Cup, a showdown between the defending Div. 1 league champions — Cowichan — and the Jackson Cup champs. As was done last year, the VISL doubled up and combined the cup match with the teams’ season-openers, something Cowichan head coach Glen Martin doesn’t agree with.
“I don’t understand playing one game for two results,” he said. “Why not just play two separate games? There’s no reason we couldn’t have had that.”
The teams were tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, and that result went into the books for league play. They then held a penalty kick shootout to decide the Cup Winners Cup, and Westcastle won 5-4. Whether his team is involved next year or not, Martin would like to see the VISL do things differently in the future.
“Hopefully next year they’ll come to their senses and have a proper cup game and proper league game,” he said.
An academy team that trains frequently all year, Westcastle is already in midseason form and got off to a good start on Sunday, but Cowichan opened the scoring with a goal by new striker Blaze Roberts at 18 minutes.
Players on both teams were taking liberties, and around the 30-minute mark, Cowichan’s starting right midfielder, Stevan Zorich, was hit hard from behind and suffered a dislocated elbow when he fell. The teams had to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance, and when play resumed, not only was no foul called against Westcastle, but the Victoria team was actually awarded a free kick for an alleged hand ball by Zorich.
It was up to the players how Cowichan would respond to the injury and subsequent insult.
“We could come out flying and play for him,” Martin said. “Or sit back and be sad about it.”
Veteran Steve Scott responded by laying out the first Westcastle player to touch the ball, and Cowichan continued to play hard.
Westcastle ended up scoring a funny goal against the play before the half was over, when their player got between the Cowichan centre backs and chipped the ball over Darian Achurch, just barely rolling it over the line.
The score was 1-1 at halftime, and although Cowichan came out strong again in the second half, they couldn’t score, earning the draw in the league standings before losing the Cup Winners Cup in the shootout.
“All in all, I was pretty happy with the effort,” Martin said. “It was great to see some of the new guys and how they looked.”
New players who made an impression during Sunday’s game included Roberts, Nic Fusick, Logan Kits and Nick Cameron.
Cowichan’s 2019-20 home opener is set for this Friday, when they will play host to Lakehill on the Keserich grass pitch at 7:30 p.m.
“The team hopes to see a good crowd up there,” Martin said. “We’ll go at this team hard and hopefully the crowd will cheer us on. It should be exciting, like back to the old days when we played up there.”