It was a true night for celebration.
Not only did Cowichan LMG finally play their long-awaited first game on the new turf at Williams Field last Saturday, but thanks to a 2-1 win over Bays United, they also locked up the Garrison Cup for first place in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s top division for a second consecutive year.
Paddy Nelson scored both goals, his 20th and 21st of the season, giving him 10 more than the closest competitor, his teammate Cooper Barry. Nelson’s first goal came just three minutes in on a penalty shot.
“That was the start we wanted,” said head coach Glen Martin, who believed his team was setting the tone.
That wasn’t the case, however, as Cowichan defenders gave the ball away in their own end a couple of times, creating dangerous situations. Bays didn’t score, but the errors didn’t help Cowichan keep the momentum.
“We let them off the hook a bit,” Martin said. “We were lucky they didn’t score a goal on us in the first half.”
Nelson scored his second goal at 29 minutes on a counterattack. Bays made it interesting when Jordie Hughes redirected a cross, but Cowichan held on for the narrow victory.
“I think we were a bit fortunate to get the win, but sometimes that’s how it goes,” Martin said, noting that his team had been on the wrong side of some bounces, too. “Over a long season, things even out.”
Martin said his team “played well in spurts” last Saturday, but wasn’t consistent enough, although Nelson, Jordan De Graf, Josh Cuthbert and Andreas Algarin and goalkeeper Sam Hutchison had solid outings.
“We can definitely play better,” Martin said. “It wasn’t our sharpest performance.”
The win was witnessed by Cowichan’s biggest crowd of the season, which Martin estimated at between 250 and 300 fans.
By winning the league, Cowichan secures a seeded berth in the provincial tournament that will come with a guaranteed home game in April. It hasn’t been an easy season for the team, which dealt with injuries, and played several games at the start of the season with a small roster.
The team still has two games left on its league schedule, both on the road as they visit Lakehill this Friday and Saanich Fusion the Friday after that.
“That will give me a chance to rest some of the guys with some knocks and play some of the guys who haven’t played much,” Martin said.
Cowichan’s first Jackson Cup game will go on Sunday, Feb. 21 in Duncan against Powell River’s Div. 2 team.