Bays United lone VISL team left in Province Cup

Of the elite teams in the Vancouver Island Soccer League, third-seed Bays United Liquor Plus seemed to make the least hubbub this season while top-seed Saanich Fusion won its first Jackson Cup, second-seed Cowichan FC made the Jackson Cup final and fourth-seed Vic West reawakened the echoes from its glory years.

But Bays United is the only VISL team still standing in the Province Cup playdowns. Bays defeated Kamloops of the Pacific Coast League 2-1 Sunday at PISE in the Sweet 16 to advance.

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Fusion’s season was snuffed Sunday at Tyndall Park with a 4-1 loss to the Metro Ford Wolves, the team Bays United advances to play in the quarter-finals April 26-27 at Coquitlam.

It is now left to Bays to attempt to become the first Island team to win the Province Cup since Gorge FC captured the last of its four titles in nine years in 2010.

“We didn’t mind [flying under the radar] at all,” said Bays head coach Rich Fast.

“We just went about our business and lost only one league game all season. We’re peaking at the right time. We’re the last Island survivor. But we were fortunate to have a good draw.”

If championship pedigree matters on the cup trail, Bays are well poised. Wes Barrett, James Rhodes and goalkeeper Eliot Mitrou have won a CIS national championship with Bruce Wilson’s UVic Vikes, while Paul VandenBoomen, Kyle Finner and Kellen Holden have captured Province Cup and Canadian titles during the Gorge FC run from 2001 to 2010. Striker and Oak Bay-grad Dan Cumming brings four years of NCAA experience from Cal-Poly.

“We have a veteran group,” said Fast, who got goals from Barrett and Lambrick Park-grad Matt Northrup in the victory.

Cowichan FC was blanked 3-0 in the Sweet 16 by the West Coast Selects in Pitt Meadows.

Vic West gave two-time Province Cup defending champion Surrey United Firefighters all they could handle on the road Sunday before falling 2-1. Vic West packed the box defensively against a Surrey Firefighters roster that includes former Vancouver Whitecaps pros and Canadian national team players Jeff Clarke and Steve Kindel and former Whitecap Stefan Leslie. The Firefighters are coached by former pro and Canadian national teamer Niall Thompson.

The upset bid fell short, but Vic West can still count the season a success. The Province Cup was once Vic West’s birthright in a run from 1976 to 1984 that netted six Province Cup titles and four Canadian championships. But then the heady winning years ended and decades of hard times hit. The fall was precipitous — to VISL Division 4. That’s where Vic West was stagnating seven years ago when a concentrated effort was made to rebuild the program and a steady move up the divisional ranks began.

Meanwhile, Richmond blanked Castaway Wanderers 2-0 in the women’s Province Cup, but their reward is having to play 10-time defending champion Surrey United in the quarter-finals.

The other Island teams earned byes into the quarter-finals April 26-27 with the Peninsula Co-op Highlanders set to play Vic West in an Island derby, with the winner to play Surrey United in the semifinals. Lower Island Terry Price Cup champion Prospect Lake Lakers will meet Coastal FC in the quarter-finals. The Lakers have the advantage of being on the opposite side of the draw from Surrey United.

In the boys’ U-21 Province Cup opening round, the Mid Isle Highlanders blanked CCB United 3-0, while Westcastle United, Gorge FC and Prospect Lake all went down. The Victoria Highlanders vs. Port Moody opening-round game was rescheduled for later.

No Island teams advanced out of the opening round in the men’s masters Province Cup with Gordon Head, Vic West, Gorge and Nanaimo United all going down on the weekend.

The Province Cup quarter-finals semifinals are May 3-4. The 2014 Province Cup men’s championship game is May 10 and women’s May 11 at Burnaby Lake West.

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