A character win by the U15 Upper Island Riptide boys soccer team on Jan. 18 vaulted them into first place in their division of the Vancouver Island Premier League.
They defeated Lower Island Saanich/Prospect 2-1 to knock them out of top spot. These teams split their previous two games this season and are widely considered very closely matched in terms of skill and physicality. Adding to this, and making the game that much more intense, were the extremely wet, slippery conditions at Pinecrest Field in Campbell River.
The teams traded chances in the first half with the Riptide having two glorious looks at goal but getting thwarted by the stellar play of the Saanich keeper. With 17 minutes gone in the first half a foul called against the Riptide led to a free kick, which the Riptide keeper was not able to corral. The ball bounced to the feet of a Saanich player, who put the ball into the back of the net. Though the Riptide pushed hard, they were held off the scoreboard for the remainder of the first half.
The Riptide raised their intensity and found another gear for the second half. The team essentially penned Saanich into their own end for much of the remainder of the game and in doing so created solid chances, but Saanich’s goalkeeper made several fine saves.
Finally, the Riptide’s Eugene Park was able to get his foot on a loose ball in the box and put it away, tying the game 1-1. Knowing that a tie would not be enough to clinch first place, the Riptide team raised their level of play yet again and with three minutes left in the game a corner kick taken by Charlie Purcell, dropped into the centre of the box and was solidly headed home by Nicholas Mitchell.
Head coach Bruce Mitchell had only compliments for his U15 Riptide team, after this dramatic 2-1 win. “I can’t begin to tell the players how proud I am of them. Not only did the team play with heart, determination and skill from the opening kick-off, but also when down a goal they never gave up.
“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 Riptide now has a record of nine wins, three losses, and one tie, giving them a total of 28 points, which puts them in first place in the league – one point ahead of Saanich/Prospect.
The Riptide’s next game is Sunday, Jan. 25 when they head to Nanaimo to play the fourth-place Storm. Time and Place TBA – please check the VIPL website for more information.
– U15 Upper Island Riptide