A fourth-place finish at the Bridgman Cup tournament satisfied the goals set by the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds field hockey team, but the T-Birds were just a bounce or two away from a higher placing.
“That was kind of our goal going in, to finish top four,” Cowichan coach Caitlin Erickson said. “It was definitely a successful weekend for us.”
The T-Birds swept their way through pool play in the tournament at the University of Victoria on the Thanksgiving weekend, beating Crofton House 2-1, Centennial 5-0 and St. Michaels University School 3-0. A first-place finish in their pool set up a crossover game for Cowichan against Kelowna, who placed second in their pool. Cowichan won that game 2-1, advancing to a semifinal against Collingwood.
“It was a really good game,” Erickson said. “Cowichan played phenomenally. We had tons of shots, tons of opportunities.”
The T-Birds led 2-1 late in the semi before Collingwood scored on a counterattack to tie the game and force a shootout, which Collingwood won. Erickson described it as “heartbreaking.”
“I think we deserved to win that game,” she said. “It was one of those games, we had lots of opportunities and shots and playing up the field, and that’s the way it goes.”
The third-/fourth-place game saw a rematch between Cowichan and Crofton House, which went the opposite way from the result in pool play, with Crofton House winning 2-1.
“It was a really good game,” Erickson said. “We had a lot of possession, but we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Chloe Langkammer was Cowichan’s top goal-scorer at the tournament with six in six games, and contributed in other ways as well.
“She puts the other team’s defence under pressure,” Erickson commented. “And she takes the ball off most players she comes up against.”
Erica Windsor, Melanie Robertson and Reece Nagy were other key players for the T-Birds at the Bridgman.
“She creates a lot of opportunities going forward and puts other teams under a lot of pressure,” Erickson said of Windsor. “And she makes a lot of good decisions when she’s in the circle.”
“She controls most of the field,” Erickson said of centre midfielder Robertson. “She has excellent tackling and good vision, and she distributes the ball really well.”
And of Nagy, Erickson added, “Every game she has played for us, she’s been solid. She has good stick skills and she’s able to move the ball really well.”
The backline of Jenna Goodman, Anya Hermant and Ava Smith was also vital to the T-Birds’ success.
“Those three together are just so solid, they make it very difficult for players to get into the circle,” Erickson said.
The coach was also pleased overall with her team’s performance.
“Every game, the girls came out competing,” she said. “They were doing the things Perri [Espeseth] and I have been implementing. They were doing the right things on the field. Unfortunately, in this tournament, it didn’t bounce quite our way. We’ll take it as a starting point and keep getting better and better as we move forward.”
Next up for the T-Birds is the Islands championship tournament in Victoria on Nov. 1-2. There are two guaranteed berths to provincials, and the third-place team can play a Lower Mainland team for a wildcard berth, but Cowichan is aiming for first. Oak Bay is arguably their strongest competition.
“The couple of times we’ve played them this year have been really, really close,” Erickson said. “They’re strong this year. It’s good to have good competition on the Island. We’ll see what happens.”