After their opening game went just as scripted, Cowichan LMG is headed for the provincial quarterfinals after a 1-0 win over Bays United at the Sherman Road turf on Saturday afternoon.
Govinda Innes scored the lone goal late in the second half as Cowichan played an inspired first-round match against one of their biggest Vancouver Island Soccer League rivals.
“It was a good win,” Cowichan head coach Glen Martin said. “The boys played well. They came to play.”
The team got off to a good start, same Martin, and the game plan worked out as planned as they keyed on Paddy Nelson, the top scorer in Div. 1 during the regular season and a former star player for Cowichan.
“Our game plan was to play hard, be physical and aggressive,” he explained, “And stop Paddy from scoring.”
Because that plan was successful, Cowichan only needed so score once to get the win.
“We got the goal we needed,” Martin said. “Everything worked out the way we thought it would.”
That one goal happened the way they expected, on a set piece: a long throw-in by captain Jesse Winters that bounced around in the box before Innes directed it past the Bays keeper, who made some spectacular stops during the game, robbing Russell Lederer in the first half, and Stevan Zorich and Steve Scott in the second half.
“Their goalie was outstanding,” Martin observed.
Cowichan’s Darian Achurch, named the VISL’s top goalie a week earlier, didn’t have to do much more than punch away a few crosses to earn the clean sheet.
“They probably had a bit more territory and possession than we did, but a lot of it was on the outside,” Martin said. “Darian didn’t really have to make a save.”
Cowichan won both regular-season matches against Bays, but Bays eliminated Cowichan from the Jackson Cup tournament. Martin was once again impressed with the performance of the Bays players, including former Cowichan standouts Nelson and Cooper Barry.
“Bays is a good, strong team,” he commented. “They had a good lineup out there.”
Innes was named Cowichan’s Man of the Match for more than just scoring the lone goal.
“He had a lot of energy,” Martin said. “He worked hard the whole game, and it paid off.”
Veteran Steve Scott also played hard at forward, which is not his usual position, but it worked out.
“He never plays up there,” Martin said. “It was something we worked out in training, putting the big man up front on their big defender and give [Cowichan scoring leader Craig] Gorman a big more freedom.”
Despite losing a lot of firepower last off season, Cowichan adapted its game, and has had a phenomenal season so far, losing only twice: once in league play and once in the Jackson Cup.
“This team has found a way to win games, and did it again,” Martin said. “We need to keep finding ways to win. We’re a blue-collar team. We have to work 90 minutes.”
Five Vancouver Island teams, including Cowichan and Bays, qualified for the 16-team provincial tournament, but only one survived the opening round.
“We’re the last once, the last hope,” Martin said.
Up next for Cowichan is Coastal FC from South Surrey, who finished second in the Fraser Valley Soccer League Premier Division before knocking off another Island team, Lakehill, in the first round of provincials. It will the 20th B.C. Cup match as a coach for Martin, and the first time he has ever faced Coastal. He doesn’t know anything about the club, but expects another tough test.
“It should be pretty even,” he said. “It. should be a hard, low-scoring, tough game. We need to be prepared for overtime.”