Although they’ve only been together for two seasons, it’s still somewhat disappointing that the Cowichan 49ers haven’t been to a provincial final yet.
The masters soccer team bowed out of the provincial tournament on Sunday after a 1-0 loss to Vancouver’s Westside FC, this time in the B.C. quarter-finals, after reaching the semifinals last year.
In the team’s two years of existence, the 49ers have won two Tony Grover Cups as Island Over-35 champions, and won the league title this year after a narrow second-place finish last year. A provincial title has proven elusive.
“I believe we had a team with the potential to challenge for the provincial title [this year],” Cowichan coach Kevin James said. “Unfortunately, the soccer gods didn’t see it that way. That’s the way it goes — anybody can win on any given day.”
James didn’t feel his team underperformed, or even made any significant mistakes; they just didn’t get the bounces they needed.
“We didn’t have a bad five minutes,” he said. “We played 90 minutes of good soccer, and so did they. They got lucky and we didn’t.”
James admitted he was surprised by Westside’s start.
“The first 15, 20 minutes, they came out guns blazing,” he said. “I thought they would have ferry legs, but they didn’t.”
The 49ers eventually started playing their game, and the game went back and forth from there. Westside beat Cowichan goalkeeper Rob McIntyre for the only goal of the match on a deflection 15 minutes into the second half.
“It wasn’t a good goal,” James lamented. “It wasn’t Robby’s fault at all.”
The 49ers, meanwhile, hit the crossbar twice, and the Westside goalie robbed Cowichan’s Tyler Hughes with a save off the stud of his boot. Cowichan had Westside on the ropes for the last 15 minutes of the match, but couldn’t put the ball in the net.
“We knew it would be tough to get goals on them, from the number of goals they let in the VMSL,” James acknowledged. “It was uncharacteristic for us to be unable to score.”
James felt his team was superior on Sunday, the only difference being that the ball didn’t bounce Cowichan’s way.
“It’s a tough way to go out,” he said. “But if you’re not going to win it, there’s no good way to go out.”
“They’re a good team,” he added. “I don’t want to take anything away from them. I thought we were the better team on the day. We had the chances, but we were a bit snakebit.
“The bottom line is they scored and we didn’t. Look at it any way you want, that’s all that matters.”
The 49ers just don’t want Sunday’s loss to cast a shadow on their excellent year.
“It was a fantastic season,” James said. “The guys are already talking about next year.”
Particularly remarkable for James was that the Cowichan players were able to always put the team first and set their egos aside.
“For me, we were so deep in good players, some guys didn’t see the field,” he said. “It was a pleasure to coach a bunch of guys with these attitudes and personalities. There was never bad blood or anything. The guys were there for each other.”
If this team stays together, there’s no reason the 49ers won’t be able to repeat their success next year.
“If we keep the core guys we have, we are definitely a provincial team.”