If the Kwalikum Kondors look at last week’s senior AA soccer playoff as a game, it goes down as a 2-1 loss to visiting Brentwood College School of Mill Bay.
If it’s taken as an exam, however, the Kondors passed with flying colours after going toe-to-toe with the Mid-Island South AA regular-season champions.
“It was a good test; the other team is good,” midfielder Edoardo Lovera said. “We have lost, but it’s a good test for us. We can win against a team like that.”
The Kondors may get their chance in this week’s Senior AA North Island Championships, to be played Wednesday and Thursday at Frances Kelsey Secondary in Mill Bay. Brentwood will enter as the No. 1 seed and Kwalikum will be No. 2 based on the result of Wednesday’s match between the top teams in the mid-Island’s north and south divisions.
“All we’ve heard all year is how strong Brentwood and that league is,” Kwalikum coach Butch Gayton said after Wednesday’s game at Qualicum Beach rec fields. “They were very big, powerful. I’m just glad we held our own and gave a little push-back. We didn’t get intimidated by them and that’s great; it’ll work in our favour.”
The top five finishers in Mill Bay this week will move on to the provincial-qualifying Vancouver Island AA championships Nov. 11-12 in Campbell River.
If Kwalikum should advance to the 2016 provincial tournament, the team may well point to last week’s game as the reason.
“I told the boys already this is a TSN turning point for us,” said Gayton. It’s like we’ve been playing against boys and now we’re playing against men, and we held our own. I think you can see it with this group; we lost, but they’re not upset. They’re ‘OK, we’ll see them again.’ That bodes well for us.”
Kwalikum Secondary’s Edoardo Lovera, left, goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Brentwood’s Nick Prachuabmoh during Wednesday’s Senior AA boys soccer playoff game at Qualicum Beach rec fields. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
A seeing-eye strike just inside the post by sniper Leo Bracht staked the Kondors to a 1-0 lead that held up until Brentwood got the equalizer in the 70th minute on a 25-yard rocket to the far post by Daniel Mueller.
Kwalikum countered the attack of the bigger, deeper Brentwood club with crisp ball movement, passing and quickness.
The Kondors were missing four players, primarily due to injury or illness, and playing with several juniors who wrapped up play in the Junior AA North Island tournament one day earlier. Kwalikum finally succumbed to the visitors’ sustained second-half pressure when Bruno Chan managed to push a short-range shot through Kondors’ goalkeeper Sheldon Munroe in the last three minutes of play to make it 2-1.
“We were better than them; (it’s) my fault we let in a couple,” said Munroe, who split goalie duties with Teddy Vukovic. “The last one, I had my hand on, too. It just curved at the last second. Otherwise, we were good, all-around.”
Munroe and Vukovic, teammates on the Kwalikum basketball team, are both soccer rookies at the high school level. They were recruited by Gayton when the soccer team opened the year without a keeper.
“We played them in basketball last year; we don’t like them,” Munroe said of Brentwood.
“I swear their basketball team is smaller than that,” Vukovic added with a nod across the pitch as the visitors departed. “I don’t know why they’re so big; it’s weird.”
Ultimately, it wasn’t Brentwood’s size, but it’s conditioning that proved the difference last week. Gayton said that will be a point of emphasis in the final week of practice as he welcomes back the four players missing from Wednesday’s contest.
“We’ll be working on conditioning, of course, and tactics, which we haven’t spent much time on yet,” Gayton said. “We did change our formation today, and it really showed. We were much better on the offensive end, controlling the ball in the forward third, which we haven’t done very well lately.
“So I’m very happy with how the boys did.”