U17 Cowichan Grizzlies place fifth at provincial soccer tournament

The Cowichan Grizzlies finished fifth at the U17 boys provincial B Cup championship tournament in West Vancouver last month.

The Cowichan Grizzlies played four games in four days, all decided by a single goal, as they finished  fifth at the U17 boys provincial B Cup championship tournament in West Vancouver last month.

Cowichan opened the tournament against the Coastal Cup champion Surrey Ravens. Despite a superb defensive effort by the Grizzlies, the Ravens — who would go on to claim the gold medal without giving up a single goal in the tournament — won the game 1-0 on a controversial free kick late in the first half.

Striker Luke Armstrong buried the game-winner in the Grizzlies’ second match, a 2-1 win over Vancouver. Armstrong was falling after a battle with a Vancouver defender just outside the 18-yard box, but managed to get a shot away, and didn’t even see the ball hit the net inside the far post as he somersaulted to the turf.

“After the game, the referee stated he had never seen a better goal in youth soccer,” coach Al Longair said. “The entire team has to be commended for their work.”

The Grizzlies wrapped up the round robin with a 2-1 loss to Kelowna.

“The boys seemed to be fighting the field with passes bouncing away from intended targets,” Longair said. “It was frustrating for them as they were running well and positionally were working hard. The boys just did not seem to click as well as in previous games.”

The loss to Kelowna put Cowichan out of medal contention, but they still had a chance to go out on a winning note in the fifth/sixth game against North Vancouver.

North Vancouver took an early lead on an unfortunate bounce, but the Grizzlies managed to control play for most of the game, and were able to score once to send the game to penalty kicks.

“The boys were confident in this contest as they had done well when previous games went into PKs,” Longair said.

The Grizzlies scored first, and Cowichan keeper Ty Benson made a save on North Vancouver’s first attempt, only to have the linesman call a replay, ruling that Benson had left his back line early. North Vancouver capitalized on the second chance to even the score. Benson stopped two more attempts and North Van shot the ball wide on another, while the Grizzlies scored two more to win 3-1 on penalties.

Longair commended all the players for the way they performed at provincials.

“They truly represented the Valley and the Island by playing hard and respectfully,” he said. “Their performance on the field was matched by their deportment off the field. True ambassadors for us all.”

All 18 Grizzlies players will be back when the season resumes again in just a few weeks, with the goal of returning to provincials and finishing in the medals.

Longair expressed his gratitude to team manager Sebrina Benson for organizing fundraising events and taking care of things off the field during the provincial tournament, and to all the people who have supported the club with donations this year.