An 11-month soccer odyssey culminated in aprovince title for the Riptide U14 boys.
“To win gold is an accomplishment our boys should be proud of…and to win in such a dominating way is an incredible feat!” said coach Bruce Mitchell.
Comprised of rep players from Campbell River and the Comox Valley, the team began training last August and finished second in league play to the Saanich Fusion.
The top two Island clubs squared off in playoffs last March with the Riptide beating the Fusion on penalty kicks to win the Island berth to the provincials.
And in preparation for the B.C.’s, the team finished second at the Surrey Mayor’s Cup tournament. Then, in the Coastal Cup final, the club lost a close decision to the Delta Coastal Selects.
Those second-place finishes motivated the Riptide as the squad put on a dominating performance at the Provincial A Cup Championship in Burnaby July 3-7.
However, things didn’t start out so well. The Riptide struggled to find their rhythm after a long days of travel, working hard to hold off a strong Kamloops Blaze team, with both teams settling for a 0-0 draw.
Day two was a re-match of the Coastal Cup final. This time the Island squadwas determined to reverse the outcome.
The teams lined up for the opening whistle at 9 a.m. and all it took was seven seconds for the Riptide offence to get going. From the kickoff, Eugene Park took the ball deep into the right corner of the Delta Selects’ zone, beat the defender and crossed the ball to John Samuels who one-touched it past the startled DCS keeper.
Delta gradually re-grouped and scored an equalizer, but had no answer when Charlie Purcell knocked in a second Riptide goal, ending the game 2-1 for Riptide.
The final round-robin game was against Richmond United, a team Riptide beat in Coastal Cup play. This time it was Tanner Kempe scoring for Riptide early in the first half, and the entire team holding a low-pressure game strategy very well to keep Richmond U off the scoreboard in a 1-0 victory
The win put Riptide through to the gold medal game. onn a warm and muggy Sunday afternoon, the local boys faced the Kamloops Blaze one more time.
Once again, right winger Park got the Riptide off to a fast start on a fine solo effort to give his team a 1-0 lead after just a minute of play.
The Blaze turned up the heat as the half wore on, but the Riptide players stayed true to the game plan of high-intensity marking and defence-first.
The Riptide led 1-0 at the half and in the second, the offence padded the lead. Again, Park blazed the Blazers with his second goal of the game, just 45 seconds into the half.
From there on, the Riptide’s fitness and strategy paid off, while Kamloops scrambled to pull close. It never happened and then Nicholas Mitchell’s goal iced the game for a 3-0 victory.
Coach Mitchell said his team controlled the midfield and were indomitable on defence, anchored by Zeb Savioe-Velos and Shohei Iwamoto who provided a solid wall for goalkeepers Gary Thiara and Jared Perras, who shared three clean sheets between them.
In addition, the the gold medals, the coach was particularly pleased with his club receiving the B.C. Soccer Fair Play Award, “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.”
Members of the Riptide include: Dylan Robertson, Zeb Savoie-Velos, Liam Walsh, Nicholas Mitchell, Charlie Purcell, Ethan Wong, Dawson Kipp, Jack Crosby, Jared Perras, Brook Gronemeyer, John Samuels, Navarre White, Riley Fussell, Ben Katerberg, Eugene Park, Shohei Iwamoto, Tanner Kempe, Gary Thiara, and coaches Gerald Fussell, Tony Walsh, Alex Jones, Pam Silver and head coach Bruce Mitchell.