Island soccer teams begin road to Provincial Cups

Down to 16 teams battling for the Men’s Open A category of the B.C. Soccer Provincial Cup, Cowichan FC coach Glen Martin realizes it will be a grind to get through to the championship, slated for May 10 in the Fraser Valley.

Cowichan, the Jackson Cup winners in Vancouver Island Soccer League play, will play host to Abbotsford United at noon on Sunday at the Ladysmith turf field as quarter-finals kick off.

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Meanwhile, Saanich Fusion travels to ICST Pegasus on Saturday at 4 p.m.; Bays United FC Liquor Plus ventures to face the Port Moody Lordco Gunners at 2:30 p.m. Saturday; Nanaimo United is also on the road to face the North Delta SC Lions at 2 p.m. Saturday; and Vic West entertains DC Burnaby at 2 p.m. Saturday at PISE.

“We’ve never played them before, but we’ve heard they are a good young team,” Martin said of the Abbotsford competition. “But, at this stage, all 16 teams are going to be tough. It’s good to get that home game, though.”

Martin and his squad — led by wily veteran player/coach Tyler Hughes (who Martin calls his general), captain Jesse Winter at centreback and top-notch scorer Patrick Nelson — hope to have a solid fan base come game time.

“Against Vic West, in the semifinal of the Jackson Cup, we had about 300,” Martin said of the team’s 4-2 victory in a game that featured three goals in 18 minutes. Cowichan then followed that up with an equally thrilling 4-3 win over Saanich Fusion in the championship game.

Unlike those two contests, Martin knows little of the upcoming opponent.

“It’s a fear of the unknown, right. They don’t know us either, but it puts teams in situations where if you have to adjust, you have to do it quickly,” he said, of altering formations or tactics. “You have to be ready for that.”

The ultimate goal, of course, is a B.C. Cup crown. All local teams involved know it’s been a drought of sorts for Island teams in search of that Men’s Open title. Gorge FC was the last team to do it in 2010 and also won in 2008.

Cowichan lost out in semifinals two years ago to West Vancouver.

“It’s a tough road,” said Martin. “A lot of it is luck of the draw early, but sooner or later you’ll have to beat a top team. We’d love to do it.”

And VISL president Vince Greco would love nothing more than to see a local team rise to the occasion.

“Cowichan is our No. 1 seed going through, but at this time of year, they are all going to be tough games because teams are playing the unknown now. There is no familiarity. It’s a feeling out process,” offered Greco.

Vic West, meanwhile, is happy to have a home game.

“We’re looking forward to it, since we’ve returned to Division I this is our first home game in B.C. Cup. It would be nice to win this one and move on,” said manager Dave Knowles.

Other Island teams competing include, in Masters Cup play on Sunday, UVic Alumni versus Vic West at 3:30 p.m.; Saanich Fusion Old School entertains Port Moody Rangers at noon at Tyndall; and Gorge FC Backfit ventures to face PoCo Castilians on Saturday at 4 p.m.

In Men’s B Cup play, Saanich Fusion Campus Honda travels to face South Burnaby Fighting Irish Saturday at 1:30 p.m., while Powell River Villa SC plays host to Port Alberni Athletics on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

In Under-21 Cup play, the date of the Victoria Highlanders vs. Mid Isle Highlanders second-round game is yet to be determined.

In Women’s Open A play, Saanich Fusion is home to Abbotsford at Tyndall on Saturday at 4 p.m. On Sunday, the Victoria Highlanders entertain Fraser Valley at 4 p.m. at Hampton and Castaways FC is at home to Coastal FC at PISE at noon.

In Women’s Open B, Nanaimo United is at home to NSGSC Impact on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Caledonia and Gorge FC waits until April 26 to travel to CCB United.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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