The Upper Island Riptide U15 Boys soccer team knew they were going to have their hands full Sunday at Comox Turf Field playing Saanich/Fusion for the Island A Cup championship.
Going into the game as the number one seed, just one point ahead of Saanich, and as defending A Cup Provincial champions, the Riptide had a lot on the line. And Saanich/Fusion had a lot to prove, having lost last year’s Island final to the Riptide in a dramatic game decided by penalty kicks.
Those who watched last year’s game and who also attended Sunday’s match had a real sense of déjà vu as these two teams put on another great show.
The first half opened with the Riptide pinning the ball in the Saanich end, and that’s where much of the play stayed for the half. Riptide defenders John Samuels, Shohei Iwamoto, Dawson Kipp, Dylan Robertson and Brook Gronmeyer were absolutely impermeable and thwarted any attempts by Saanich to move the ball forward. In turn, Saanich’s defence also played a stellar half, not letting the Riptide’s unrelenting attacks make a difference on the scoreboard.
The fact that these teams are closely matched in terms of skill and physicality led to a second half very similar to the first, with each team pressing hard in a defensive struggle. Though both teams increased their intensity as time ticked down, there were no goals scored at the end of regulation play.
As was the case in last year’s final, the teams headed to overtime. After two 10-minute halves there was still no score. Again, as in last season, up next were the penalty kicks.
Riptide goalie Jared Perras, who remained collected throughout the game, carried his confidence into the emotional penalty kicks. After seven roller-coaster rounds, the Riptide secured the win when a Saanich player’s shot hit the crossbar for a miss.
After this high-pressure game, Riptide head coach Bruce Mitchell had only compliments for his team. “No words can describe how proud we are of each and every one of the boys. What a performance! The boys played some fantastic soccer.
“A special heartfelt thanks to our backline of John, Shohei, Brook, Dawson and Dylan. They were up against some truly great soccer players and they totally dominated. One mistake could have cost either team, but both teams played with incredible intensity and desire.
“The one overriding narrative which has defined this team from the very beginning is character. They may not be the loudest or most demonstrative team on the field but they have a resiliency that pushes them to greater and greater heights.”
The team heads to the Surrey Mayor’s Cup this weekend where they will likely meet some of the teams they could face in the Provincial A Cup Championship, which will be held July 9-12, also in Surrey. The team will then have a break before beginning Coastal A Cup championships play in late April.
THROW INS The U15 Upper Island Riptide plays in the Vancouver Island Premier League (VIPL) … the VIPL consists of high-level teams from Lower Island Soccer Association and Upper Island Soccer Association … the U15 team is comprised of players from the Comox Valley, Campbell River, Quadra Island, and Powell River …
– Riptide U15 Boys