In some ways, Cowichan LMG’s season ended much the way it started.
Due to injuries, travel and other commitments, the Div. 1 soccer team had just one sub on the bench for Sunday’s provincial semifinal at the Dave Williams Turf, a situation that hearkened back to the team’s roster struggles last fall.
“We started the year with hardly any players and kind of ended that way, too,” Cowichan head coach Glen Martin said.
It wasn’t the best position for the team as it played host to BCT Rovers Tigers United, who finished first in the Vancouver Metro Soccer League standings this season, and Cowichan ended up on the wrong side of a 3-0 final score.
“It’s asking too much to beat the No. 1 team in Vancouver unless you’ve got a full squad,” Martin said.
Among those who did suit up for Cowichan was midfielder Kevan Brown, who was injured against West Van two weeks earlier and missed the quarter-final against Nanaimo. In other circumstances, Brown might have sat out Sunday’s match.
“It’s amazing he even played, and played really well,” Martin said. “I wasn’t going to start him; he basically started himself.”
After conceding an early goal, Cowichan went to halftime trailing the Tigers 1-0 but feeling confident. The Tigers were able to keep up a pace in the second half that the undermanned Cowichan squad just couldn’t maintain, and sealed up the win with two late goals.
“They really came on in the second half,” Martin said. “They basically ran us out of steam.”
The Tigers boasted a strong attack, which was stymied in part by strong performances from goalkeeper Darian Achurch and defender Keevan Webb.
“They had at least three or four attacking guys,” Martin noted. “That was hard for our guys to handle without a bench. They were a better team than us on the day. We came in with a depleted lineup and an injured player. I was really proud of how hard the guys worked to stay in it late. We showed a lot of character.”
Between the harsh words they used on the pitch — for which the referee issued multiple warnings but no actual discipline — and their loud and lengthy celebrations after the match, the Tigers left a foul impression on the Cowichan fans and players. Martin felt the post-game celebration was a little excessive.
“Last time I looked, you don’t get a trophy for a semifinal win,” he said.
For the most part, Martin was pleased with his team’s 2017-18 season, which saw LMG win the league for the fourth consecutive year, set club records for most wins and points in league play, and for most wins over all competitions, and reach the semifinals of both the provincial and Jackson Cup tournaments.
That came after only seven players returned to the ranks from last year’s team, and LMG merged forces with the team that won Div. 2 a year before, leading to a prosperous partnership between Martin and new assistant coach Ryan Flynn.
“To get the most wins and the most points was impressive,” Martin stated.