In a game that recalled their provincial AAA championship win from last November, the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds got the 2016 high school field hockey season off to an excellent start by winning the Friendship Cup tournament last weekend.
The Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds beat host Shawnigan Lake School 3-1 in a shootout after the teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time in the tournament final on Saturday. Both the location — the Shawnigan turf — and the fact that the game went to a shootout mirrored the provincial title game from 2015. And once again, Cowichan goalkeeper Robin Fleming — a member of the national junior team — stood tall in net to secure the win.
Cowichan and Shawnigan had played to a scoreless draw in pool play, and the rematch in the tournament final was a similar defensive clash. Shawnigan scored early and led 1-0 for most of the second half before T-Birds captain Sara Goodman — also a member of the national junior team — took charge and dribbled from the 50-yard line to the circle to score the tying goal, setting up Fleming’s shootout heroics.
“We were very happy with how the team worked together for the first weekend of competition,” Cowichan head coach Perri Espeseth said, speaking for herself and co-coach Caitlin Evans. “This bodes well for the season ahead.”
The T-Birds have nine seniors returning from last year’s B.C. championship roster, including captain Goodman, co-captains Fleming and Ashton Aumen, and Emma Dame, who also took a leadership role, but rookies like Grade 9 players Birkley Anderson and Chloe Langkammer and Grade 10 Melanie Robertson, showed their value as well.
“The T-Birds have a lot of leadership off the field and experience on the field to support the new additions to the team,” Espeseth said.
The Frances Kelsey Breakers beat the Mount Douglas Rams in the third-place game. Espeseth was impressed with the calibre of play from all the Island teams at the tournament
“Although we had 4-0 win over Oak Bay Secondary, we anticipate tougher competition the next time we meet them, as they were missing one of their key players,” she said. “Mount Doug has improved immensely over the past couple of years, and this year they will continue to challenge every team they meet. We anticipated strength from Frances Kelsey and Shawnigan Lake School, and we were not disappointed. Both teams have a strong core group of players, and they are always challenging games to play.”
Cowichan’s junior team finished second to the St. Michaels University School senior team in the junior Friendship Cup tournament, which included junior and development teams, as well as AA senior teams. The junior T-Birds followed up the tournament by beating Shawnigan 5-1 on Tuesday.
“After coming in second at the Friendship Cup, we were very happy with the outcome,” Cowichan junior coach Kaileigh Simons said.