The Pacific Coast Soccer League championship slipped through the fingers of Victoria Highlanders FC on Sunday afternoon, as they lost the 2015 title in penalty kicks to Khalsa Sporting Club at Trillium Park in Vancouver.
With the score tied 1-1 after extra time, Khalsa goalkeeper Andrew Fink stopped Victoria’s Alex Redpath and Tarnvir Bhandal in penalty kicks. Patrick Nelson finally managed to score one for the Highlanders, but Khalsa struck on their first four shots on Noah Pawlowski to end it 2-1 (4-1 in kicks).
“It’s too bad,” Highlanders head coach Dave Dew said. “We scored in about the 100th minute on a great goal, and two or three minutes later Cam Hundal got in alone and the goalie saved that one. If that goes in, it’s probably the game right there.”
The two sides had gone through the regulation 90 minutes scoreless. The Highlanders led 1-0 after the first half of extra time, but couldn’t hang on.
Nelson gave the Highlanders the lead, but Khalsa came back in the second half of extra time to force penalties.
It was a disappointing finish, but Dew and general manager and co-owner Marvin Diercks were both impressed with the season.
The two, however, are contemplating a move back to the United Soccer League’s Professional Development League, where the team played the past few seasons before previous owner Alex Campbell had to step aside, temporarily folding the club.
“We’re definitely leaning toward the PDL,” confirmed Dew, who saved the team along with Diercks. “We’ll probably make that formal application. The biggest stumbling block is the league fees.”
“We’re investigating the possible return to the PDL,” Diercks said. “It’s been on our minds that last month and a half.
“We’re going to look at our season-ticket renewal and sponsorship. That’s the goal.”
Diercks said they would not totally abandon the thought of returning to the PCSL.
“We want to look at what’s best for the club,” he said.
“The team needs to be self-sustaining and not in a position for losses. We need to be able to pay the bills, break even or, ideally, have enough to reinvest in the next season.”
They’re asking fans to renew their season-ticket commitment for the 2016 campaign as early as possible.
As for 2015, the Highlanders came a long way in bouncing back from folding in late January.
“Before we went to penalty kicks Sunday, I told the guys that if you would have said to me back on Jan. 31, when this thing closed down, that we would have been standing here heading to penalties in the final, you would have called BS,” Dew said.
“Now the biggest thing, as an owner, is to get our fans on side,” he added, pinpointing season-ticket sales and sponsorship.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help of all our volunteers,” Diercks said of getting through the season.
On the field, Dew said the Highlanders need a striker who can provide 20-25 goals in a season — a Blair Sturrock type.