Someone had to go home, and deciding who wasn’t easy.
Saturday’s Deryl Hughes Cup semifinal saw two well-matched men’s masters soccer teams take to the Sherman Road turf, and whoever got the bounces would advance to the final.
This time, the bounces didn’t favour the Cowichan 49ers, who lost 2-1 in extra time to PCOV from the Vancouver Metro Soccer League.
“It could have gone either way,” Cowichan head coach Kevin James said. “Sadly for us, it didn’t go the way we wanted.
“I think it was one of those games where it was two equally matched sides, two very similar teams. They matched up with us in skill. They matched up with us in grit. We were very similar across the board.”
James felt his team could have done a little bit more to make the bounces go their way.
“[PCOV] played extremely well,” he said. “Not taking anything away from them, but I don’t think it was our best game.
“It wasn’t for lack of effort. It wasn’t that anyone played poor. It just wasn’t there for us. You can’t win all the time.
“I thought we were a little bit lethargic, for some reason. We didn’t have our best game when we needed to. With that said, it went to the second overtime before we gave up the goal that ended our season.”
The score was tied 1-1 at halftime, Cowichan’s goal coming from Tyler Hughes on a free kick that was bobbled by the PCOV keeper. No one scored in the second half, so the game went to extra time, when only PCOV managed to make good on an opportunity.
Neither team was short on scoring chances, and it was goalkeeper Chris Muller, Cowichan’s Man of the Match, who kept the 49ers in it.
“They could have scored two or three goals if it wasn’t for our goaltender,” James said.
Injuries played a factor in the result as well, and would have been a major setback for the 49ers had they qualified for the final.
“If we had won that game, we would have looked like a whole other team in the final,” James noted. “In the locker room, we were pretty banged up after the game. We had two or three bad injuries in the first half, and those guys finished the game. That says a lot about the commitment of the guys on the team.”
Although a provincial title remains elusive for the 49ers, they did win a second-straight league title and a third-straight Tony Grover Cup in just their third year of existence.
“I’m extremely proud to have gotten where we did,” James said. “I think we proved to the province that we’re capable of competing at that level. We’ve got talent, we’ve got grit. We lost by the smallest of margins, in overtime to a quality team.”
A spirited crowd turned out for the provincial semifinal, and James discussed how fortunate his team has been to have the support of the fans and title sponsor Craig Street Brew Pub. It’s also a group unlike any James has been part of before.
“I’ve been part of a lot of teams over my career, coaching and playing, and this is one of the more special teams. It’s a tight-knit group of guys. The camaraderie is second to none.”