The Upper Island U-15 Riptide boys soccer team knew they were going to have their hands full heading to the Provincial A Cup Championships this year as defending champions. Hosted by Coastal FC in Surrey and running from Thursday, July 9 to Sunday, July 12 the championship featured three strong, highly motivated opponents for the Riptide. Each game was a true battle.
The Riptide’s opening match on Thursday was against the Kamloops Blaze. This team came second to the Riptide at last year’s provincial final. Playing at Surrey South Athletic Park in hot conditions, both teams came out of the gate with high intensity. It was a cagey affair with both teams fighting hard. The game turned on a free kick by Shohei Iwamoto from Quadra Island, who struck a beautiful arcing ball from 45 yards into the box. The ball took a bounce, went off a defender’s head and over the outstretched arms of the keeper for an own goal. Jared Perras and Gary Thiara shared the shutout.
On Friday the Riptide took on Delta Coastal Selects. This was the top-rated team from Vancouver who also won the Coastal Cup earlier in the spring. The fortune of this game also turned on set pieces but this time not in the Riptide’s favour.
Two early goals off of a corner and free kick put Delta up 2-0. A third from open play in the second half sealed the Riptide’s fate. A consolation goal by Riptide player Darren Hall made the final 3-1.
Saturday’s match was one of the most physical games the Riptide played all season, as the boys faced perennial rival Surrey Guildford. In order to make it the finals the Riptide had to win.
The first half was a tight affair with no ground given up by either team. Just before the half there was a moment of magic when Tanner Kempe, with his head down in and around the 30 yard point, beat one defender and with half a yard of space in front of him drove his boot through the ball and sent a high arcing ball up and over the outstretched arms of the keeper.
This goal was key to bolstering the Riptide’s effort for the second half and putting Surrey Guildford on the hot seat. The Riptide came out strong with Eugene Park scoring the second goal at the 60th minute. Surrey responded with a strong push back and scored, making it 2-1.
The back line of John Samuels, Shohei Iwamoto, Dylan Robertson and Brook Gronemeyer held firm and Jaylon Grenier from Port Hardy closed the game with a third goal in the dying minutes of the game.
In the other semifinal, Delta Coastal Selects defeated Kamloops 2-1 and advanced to the championship game with seven points, one more than the Riptide. Having defeated the Riptide 3-1 on Friday, being physically much bigger, and with plenty of local fans, the team from Delta was the favourite going into the final, but the Riptide team did not think of this as they took the pitch on Sunday.
Riptide players turned up the intensity another notch putting pressure on the Delta team immediately from the kickoff. The Riptide midfielders and forwards pushed hard and created real chances for a goal early in the first half, however, for each of these opportunities Delta had a chance too.
Riptide goalie Jared Perras had to make a number of big stops in the first half. A period of heavy rain made the pitch slick and this added to the challenge both teams faced as they tried to maintain control of the ball. At half time there was no score.
The first goal scored in the second half would obviously be huge. There was a huge amount of energy expended in this pursuit, as both teams looked to exploit any weakness. Few opportunities presented themselves, as both teams were rock solid in defence.
Ultimately in a game like this, one mistake, one bounce, one moment of lost concentration can make the difference between silver and gold. In the 50th minute a harmless Delta long cross towards the box sailed over the outstretched head of the Riptide defender, took a Delta bounce to the far post where a Delta attacker found the ball at the edge of the 18. A crisp one-time low volley found the back of the net.
With 30 minutes left the Riptide pushed with everything they had at the Delta goal. Many chances were created but none found the back of the net. In the dying seconds a free kick from the edge of the 18 looked like it might be the opportunity to tie the game and send it into overtime. The kick was driven onto the net but the Delta keeper stood firm and got hands to the ball. The whistle sounded and Delta Coastal were the 2015 U15 Boys Provincial A Cup Champions.
After the team received their silver medals, coach Bruce Mitchell, commented, “We have nothing to be sad about. No one’s chin should be down. Two years in a row we have made it the Provincial Championships. Two years in a row we have made it to the gold medal game. We leave here with a gold medal and a silver to show for all our work and effort. This is a remarkable accomplishment and one that many can only dream of.”
The Riptide squad recognizes and thanks all those who helped in making their 2014-2015 season an exceptional success. They highlight the hard work of their coaches, Bruce Mitchell, Mark Purcell, and Troy Perras and their team manager, Pam Silver, the support of the local soccer associations in the Comox Valley and Campbell River, technical help from Ken Garraway and Shel Brodsgaard, and sponsor Steve Frame from Frame and Company Injury Law. Finally none of this would have been possible without the dedication and support of the player’s families and friends.
THROW INS The Under-15 Upper Island Riptide plays in the Vancouver Island Premier League (VIPL) consisting of high-level teams from Lower Island Soccer Association and Upper Island Soccer Association … the team is comprised of players from the Comox Valley, Campbell River, Quadra Island, Port Hardy, and Powell River …
– Under-15 Upper Island Riptide Boys