The snow did everything it could to prevent the Island AAA girls field hockey championship from happening, but the teams refused to back down, and when all the games had been played, the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds emerged with the Island banner once again.
It took a little longer than planned, but the T-Birds won three of their four games to take the Island title, and will now head to the provincial championships where they will be joined by runners-up Oak Bay at Mount Douglas. The Frances Kelsey Breakers placed fourth, narrowly missing out on a berth at provincials, while Shawnigan Lake School finished fifth.
“It was definitely our goal to win this year,” Cowichan head coach Caitlin Erickson said. “But we also knew that the competition on the Island was strong this year. We had to work hard to win and we knew we had to do that. It’s exciting to be the winner of the Island and going forward to provincials. It puts us in a better order as to who we’re put in a pool with.”
The tournament was scheduled to run last Thursday to Saturday. All the games on Thursday and Friday went in the books without a problem, but falling snow and a frozen turf made things difficult on Saturday. The T-Birds had their Saturday games against Kelsey and Shawnigan postponed due to the weather, although the Cowichan Sportsplex crew was able to make the surface playable long enough for Kelsey to beat Shawnigan. Cowichan’s last two games took place on Monday and Tuesday after school, and the T-Birds won 2-0 both times.
The lone blemish on Cowichan’s record was a 1-0 loss to Mount Doug, a team that has caused problems for the T-Birds in previous meetings this year.
“We played them at the Friendship Cup, too, and lost there. Sometimes certain teams play differently against us, and for us this year, it’s Mount Doug.”
Kelsey missed the third provincial berth essentially because of that 2-0 loss to Cowichan. Mount Doug, Kelsey and Shawnigan ended up tied for third place, but Mount Doug took the spot based on goal differential. Had the teams been tied in terms of goal differential, Kelsey would have had the advantage after winning a shootout the teams held just in case such a situation had arisen.
“It was a bit disappointing, but that’s what happens,” Kelsey coach Alyssa Davidson said.
The T-Birds got strong performances from core veteran players like Jenna Goodman, Jenna Berard, Melanie Robertson, Jillian Wallace and Hanna Murray. Erica Windsor, a Grade 11, and Anya Hermant, a Grade 10, also stepped up.
“Erica had a phenomenal tournament,” Erickson said. “She was able to put a lot of pressure on other teams’ defensive lines and cause a lot of turnovers. Anya was solid all weekend at left back, which is an important position, because that’s the other teams’ attack side.”
Islands marked the end of the season for the Breakers, who made a lot of progress in what Davidson called a “developing year” with a lot of newcomers.
“I’m actually really happy. I feel we ended on a good note,” the coach said. “Everyone as a whole played well at Islands. It shows how far we’ve come. I was really impressed with the growth the girls had. I’m proud of the girls for how they showed up at Islands and played their hearts out. As a coach, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Kelsey will lose five players to graduation: co-captains Julianna Cross and Shon Lumb, Brooklyn Paisley, Kaitlyn Matthews and Jocelyn Buss. In spite of that, Davidson believes the team can contend again next year.
“We definitely need to get our numbers up,” she said. “If we can get the numbers we need, I think we can do well.”
The T-Birds will head to Richmond next week for the provincial tournament, which begins on Wednesday. The two-time defending champs will be looking to make it three in a row.
“Top four, I think, would be very exciting,” Erickson said. “Obviously, winning provincials for the third year in a row is something Cow High has never done before. I think if we play as well as we did on the weekend, there’s a possibility of that.”