The waterworks were toned down from the previous week but Sooke’s top soccer field remained waterlogged for a March 11 game between Vancouver Island Soccer League div-1 rivals Sooke Celtic and Nanaimo United. The winner of the game would go on to the Jackson Cup semi-finals and continue to compete in provincial cup play.
The game lived up to its billing as both squads had gone in knowing they’d have to be at their best to come out on top.
Fittingly, it was a hotly-contested, low-scoring affair decided in overtime.
Both teams had entered the game with a healthy respect for one another.
Sooke’s Daniel Bergerud put his team ahead about midway through the first half. Celtic was pressing with several players menacing the area about 15 yards in front of the Nanaimo net when the talented Bergerud managed to boot it home.
There were numerous chances at both ends before Chris Arnett tied it after the half-time break, from then on it was a tense back and forth struggle before Steve Scott would end it on a 30-yard free kick in the first overtime period.
“They held on for the win,” Nanaimo manager Frank Klemencic later stated. “We had plenty of chances to tie or even win. The field was a factor, but what do you do?”
Given the high regard in which Scott holds the United crew, he felt the win ranked at the top in his Celtic experience. He said he felt Nanaimo, with a number of quality players back in the line-up, was the best outfit in the VISL and it took the “best game ever” from Sooke to beat them.
Celtic now prepares for the Jackson Cup semi-final which brings Cowichan FC to The Log this Friday night. Game time is 8 o’clock. The Duncan bunch finished just ahead of Celtic in the div-1 standings and a staunch challenge is expected.
Interesting developments have combined to put Sooke where it is – still in contention for the Jackson Cup and a berth in provincial playoffs.
Scott said he and everyone else had expected to see front-running Bays United Liquor Plus and the perennially powerful Gorge FC challenge for the hardware but both had surprisingly fallen by the wayside.
It makes for an excited group looking ahead, and a playing coach who gave a lot of credit to his club.
“We just battled it out all year,” Scott reflected. “We’ve had trouble with numbers like we always do, so many guys with their work commitments… both the Heggelunds (Robbie and Thor) are fishing. We’ve got a great young team and they just battle every week. We’re getting results right now and we’re going to keep rolling with it.”
Scott is confident his team is better prepared for this Friday’s game than it was the last time the teams met – a 4-1 Cowichan win. A depleted roster relating to some red-card issues put Sooke behind the eight-ball. They are now at full strength.
The Cowichan coaching staff kept it succinct when responding to a request for comment ahead of the semi-final.
“We just hope the field’s playable,” came the reply, “and we look forward to a good battle this Friday.”