Cowichan United came from behind twice before pulling ahead in the final minutes to ultimately beat Bays United 3-2 in a U21 soccer match at Oak Bay High School last Sunday.
“It was a good game, fast-paced, good soccer from both teams,” Cowichan head coach Tyler Hughes said. “We came from behind twice and ended up getting the winner.”
Hughes wasn’t surprised to see his team battle back as they collected their fourth win in a row.
“One thing I’ve learned from this team is that they have strong character; they’re very resilient,” he said. “Whenever we’re down, it doesn’t faze this group. They fight and compete right to the end.”
Cowichan beat Bays 4-1 last time they met, in late October, but they didn’t expect things to be easy this time around.
“We knew they would be a different team than last time we played them,” Hughes said. “They have some older kids now. They came out and pressed hard. We matched them, and after about five or 10 minutes, we knew it was going to be a tough game, for sure.”
Bays opened the scoring at 15 minutes when the ball caromed off the post and bounced in off goalie Braeden Nash’s back. Later in the first half, Michael Fusick sent the ball over the Bays defenders directly to Logan Kits, who was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty kick, which he made good on, and the teams went to the break in a 1-1 deadlock.
Bays took the lead again midway through the second half, but Man of the Match Oliver Bontkes scored on a header off a free kick to tie the game at 2-2. With less than five minutes to go, Kaine Dreaver got his left foot on a cross from Devin Jack to score the winner.
The game was Cowichan’s last until Jan. 14 when they visit the Mid Isle Mariners in Ladysmith. They go into the break with five wins and a tie over their last six matches, but Hughes isn’t concerned about losing any momentum.
“They’re playing well, their confidence is very high, and they’re getting results,” he said. “The guys have played a lot of soccer the last couple months, so it will be good to take two or three weeks off.”
Logan and Addison Kits will join Fusick on the Vancouver Island Soccer League U21 team that will face a Div. 4 squad during all-star festivities at Hampton Park on Jan. 6.
“It’s a bit of fun and a good experience for the guys, playing with other guys they’ve been playing against,” said Hughes, who played in numerous all-star teams during his Div. 1 career. “All three of them deserve that, for sure.”
In their first year as a team, Cowichan United has climbed to third place in the league, just two points out of first, exceeding any expectations Hughes had prior to the season.
“I wasn’t really sure where we would be,” he said. “But realistically, I didn’t expect to be fighting for first right now.”
The team focus has always been on performance more than results, but they will be having a discussion about what they want to accomplish once the season resumes.
“I talked to the guys, and once we’re back from Christmas, we’ll have a team meeting and recalibrate, set goals and objectives for the next four months. They’ll probably be different from what we thought they’d be at the start of the season.”