The Upper Vancouver Island Riptide U14 boys made their soccer season last nearly a year – and what a year it was.
Pre-season training began in August, with a strong regular season seeing them finish second to Saanich Fusion in the Island division. Playoffs in March saw Riptide beating Saanich Fusion on PKs to win the Island berth to Provincials, and second place in the Surrey Mayor’s Cup tournament.
In April, Riptide played through to the finals of the Coastal Cup competition, losing a close game to Delta Coastal Selects.
On July 3-7, Riptide returned to competitive soccer action, travelling to Burnaby for the Provincial A Cup Championships with the goal of bringing home the gold to the Upper Island – and they did!
In their opening game, Riptide struggled to find their rhythm after a long day’s travel, working hard to hold off a strong Kamloops Blaze team, with the teams settling for a 0-0 draw at the end of 70 minutes.
Day two’s game saw Riptide in a re-match of this spring’s Coastal Cup final against the best Lower Mainland team, the Delta Coastal Selects. The team were determined to show they had learned from that earlier match and reverse the outcome.
The teams lined up for the opening whistle at 9 a.m. Riptide’s Eugene Park streaked deep into the right corner, beating the DCS defender to cross the ball to John Samuels, who one-touched it past the startled DCS keeper – seven seconds into the game.
DCS gradually regrouped and scored an equalizer, but had no answer when Charlie Purcell knocked in a second Riptide goal, ending the game 2-1 for Riptide and tying them for second in the tournament.
The final round-robin game was against Richmond United, a team Riptide respected from an earlier meeting on the way to the Coastal Cup final.
This time, it was Tanner Kempe scoring for Riptide early in the first half, and the entire team holding a low pressure game strategy to keep Richmond off the scoreboard despite intense pressure in the later stages of the game.
The win put Riptide top of the standings in the round robin, through to the gold medal game.
Sunday afternoon saw warm and humid conditions as Riptide prepared to play Kamloops Blaze, who’d suffered from injuries over the tournament, while the Riptide’s larger bench allowed their sick or injured players to rest and recover over the weekend.
Game strategy remained high intensity/low pressure to tire out the opposition. Another quick start was requested, and Eugene Park delivered, with a strong solo effort from the right winger netting the first goal after one minute.
Blaze pressure, added to the heat and humidity, caused difficulties and Riptide were happy to lead 1-0 at half-time break. The game resumed with cloud cover providing more favourable conditions for the Island boys, but it was Eugene Park’s second quick goal, 45 seconds into the half, that really provided relief.
The game wore on, Riptide executing their game plan well, while the Blaze became disorganized and fell to injuries. Nicholas Mitchell provided the final Riptide goal, after testing the Blaze defence most of the game.
Riptide control through the midfield, plus an indomitable defence anchored by Zeb Savioe-Velos and Shohei Iwamoto, provided a solid wall for goalkeepers Gary Thiara and Jared Perras, who shared three clean sheets between them. Overall, the team allowed just a single goal the entire tournament, while the attacking side had success scoring six goals from five players.
Coach Bruce Mitchell summed up, “While winning the Cup and seeing the joy on the faces of the boys was a delight, maybe more significant to me was the fact that the team was also awarded the BC Soccer Fair Play award.
“This award is for teams, coaches and parents that behave with respect towards the opposition and referees, who play fairly, and who are gracious in both victory and defeat. It speaks to the character of the team and the program we are trying to build, which in the long run is more important than anything else.”
Mitchell added that to get a sense of the challenge facing Island-based teams to look at the final tournament results – every other division was dominated by Lower Mainland-based teams. Other than the UVI Storm (Nanaimo) U18 girls, who won their gold medal game in penalty kicks, none of the other five Island teams won their final games. “To win gold is an accomplishment our boys should be proud of! To win in such a dominating way is an incredible feat. We have set the bar very high for next year. Let the training begin! Just kidding, you can start next week.”
– UVI Riptide U14 boys