By stringing together three wins in very different games, the U15 Gold Cowichan Crushers punched their ticket to the provincial girls soccer championship.
“The last three games were really solid games,” Crushers coach Brian Johnston said.
The Crushers finished second in their combined U15/U16 league, wrapping that up with a 3-1 win on Feb. 10 over a Juan de Fuca team that played in the Vancouver Island Premier League last season.
A week after that, they faced the same team for a berth in the Island final. Because the teams had been so balanced throughout the season, Johnston wondered if it might be JDF’s turn to win.
“If you won the last one, it might be your turn to lose,” he said.
The Crushers weren’t playing their best soccer, Johnston admitted, and running into the wind in the first half didn’t help. Although Chloe Bruce was solid in goal, Cowichan trailed 2-0 at halftime.
The team returned to the pitch in the second half with the wind and a bit of momentum. Aisha Werner took on a couple of defenders and made a goal out of nothing to get her team on the board. With 12 minutes to go, Werner fed the ball to Taylor Johnston, who set up Ema-Leigh Joe, and she slotted it in the bottom corner to tie the score. Five minutes after that, Shayla Wilson buried a left-footer from 20 yards out to make it 3-2.
“It was a good result,” Brian Johnston said. “Somehow, we found a way to win. We weren’t playing our best and the other team was playing well. It was a character win.”
The following weekend, the Crushers made their way to Powell River to face the Upper Island qualifiers for the Island title.
“I’ve made that trip many times, and it’s not too often you come home with a win,” Johnston commented.
The teams squared off on a small, fast turf, surrounded by a 15-foot fence just outside the sidelines.
“It’s hard to play soccer on it,” the coach said. “It felt like a cage match, to be honest.”
The Crushers opened the scoring on a 35-yard free kick by Jayda Lauzon. Later in the first half, Werner scored on a play the team had worked on specifically for the short field: Bruce punted the ball to half, and it bounced past the centre backs to Werner, who capitalized on the breakaway.
Powell River took more control in the second half, scoring around the 55-minute mark. The pressure was on, and Powell River had the momentum, but Cowichan fended them off. With about seven minutes to go, Werner finished off another individual effort with a shot from about 20 yards out to make it 3-1, locking up the first trip to provincials for this particular group.
Throughout the last three games, the Crushers got strong play from Dennene Wallace at left back and Molly Corbett at centre back.
“All three were tough games,” Crushers coach Brian Johnston said. “We were able to put good performances together.”
The Crushers will go into Coastal Cup competition in April, followed by provincials in Kamloops in July.