They are the unknown, the surprise team, and the underdogs.
For many of the local faithful in the stands for Sunday’s Jackson Cup final at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday, it will be their first time seeing the Lakehill Reds.
Kickoff is 3 p.m.
The Division 2 Reds have come out of nowhere to challenge the Bays United, regular season champs of Div. 1, the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s top level.
When the Bays take the field, there will be plenty of players familiar to the Jackson Cup, many of them having won it previously.
Not so for the Reds.
“It can be quite intimidating to think we’re playing the first place team in the final,” said Lakehill captain Jean-Robert Belliveau.
“We’ve seen the Bays play. We know who they are. But there’s certainly no pressure on us. We’re just a Div. 2 team. That’s how it’s been all along in the Jackson Cup.”
A Reynolds secondary soccer academy grad, Belliveau, 20, has been with Lakehill his entire youth.
His team is new, a merger of select players from his Lakehill U21 team from last season and its rival, the Bays United U21 team, including Kean de Vries.
“The season started off kind of furry, we had our own factions and didn’t know each other too well,” said de Vries, a UVic student here from West Vancouver.
“As the games started flowing and we started winning, we started liking each other a little bit more. We know we have the talent.”
It’s tough to call Lakehill (8-6-2) the underdogs when they’re more like the under-pups against the veteran Bays squad. On the Bays (15-1-0) are players who’ve won multiple Jackson Cups, been provincial champions, and made multiple trips to the national championship.
Half of Lakehill, meanwhile, is still eligible to be playing in the under-21 division. Some of them were part of the Lakehill under-16 provincial championship team three years ago.
The Reds oldest is the goalkeeper, Gabe Luger, 21.
The Bays, on the other hand, are full of VISL Div. 1 veterans, former Victoria Highlanders and UVic Vikes.
They’ve been around the VISL block, and then some.
Two years ago a core of Gorge United veterans jettisoned to play for the Bays. They came from a Gorge team which owned the Jackson Cup like a cafe owns mugs.
Among them are Paul Van den Boomen, an anchor on defence, and Jordie Hughes, who smashed the VISL for 28 goals this regular season. Bays’ Kellen Holden, another former Gorge player, was next with 13 goals.
They helped the Bays appear in last year’s Jackson Cup, but lost to Cowichan, 2-1.
The Bays also has its own cast of VISL stars with Craipg Robertson and Matt Northrup at the forefront. Thrown in a mix of ex-Vikes, and it’s a veritable all-star team.
But it doesn’t matter to the Reds who targeted promotion to Div. 1 and nothing more. They earned it by finishing tied for first in DIv. 2. It means this is the first of many meetings to come against Bays Utd.
“I’m not scared. We think we have the chance to win,” de Vries said. “We’ve played against Div. 1 teams in every round and it’s up to them to beat the Div. 2 team like they’re supposed to.”
Naturally, there’s been some blessings for Lakehill this year. To start, they were gifted a spot in Div. 2, though new VISL teams usually enter through Div. 3.
Things were still “furry” in the dressing room when de Vries made an early season post on the infamous VISL online forum.
“It said something along the lines that despite (Lakehill’s) record of 1-3-1, we would win the division,” de Vries said.
An unorthodox tactic, but one that appeared to work.
The Reds met the challenge with five straight wins and finished the season tied atop Div. 2 with Cowichan’s Div. 2 team.
“We have a real young team here,” said coach Paul Cringle. “Even though they’re young there are some players who’ve been together a very long time.”
In the late 1980s Cringle won the Jackson Cup with the Victoria Croatia, a team built with former Victoria Vistas players from the Canadian Soccer League. Previous to that, Cringle played semipro in England’s Northern Counties division.
He’s coached in the Lakehill soccer association since his 18-year-old son Sean, a member of the Reds, was six years old. Reds’ Daylin Salter was also on that team.
In Jackson Cup play, which includes Div. 1 and 2 teams, the Bays beat defending Jackson Cup champs Cowichan FC (14-1-0), Gordon Head Blazers Div. 2 (8-6), and Nanaimo (9-8), by a combined score of 18-0. The Reds conquered three Div. 1 teams on their Jackson path, Gorge United (6-11-1), Vic West (9-7-1) and Sooke Celtic (4-2-1), with a goal differential of 7-3.
SOCCER CUP WEEKEND
Prospect Lake will face Castaways in a rematch of last year’s Terry Price Cup senior women’s soccer championship on Sunday.
The two premier teams will headline a full slate of Lower Island Women’s Soccer Association games this weekend.
Kick off for the Terry Price Cup is 2:30 p.m. at Layritz Park on Sunday (March 24).
Prospect Lake won the premier women’s table and a berth in the Provincial A Cup. Last Friday,
Prospect defeated the Vic A’s 1-0 in the Terry Price semifinals at UVic on a goal by Danni Corlazzoli. Prospect goalie Olivia de Goede earned the shutout.
Kelsey Marshall scored the only goal in the other semifinal as Castaways defeated Vic West 1-0. The clean sheet went to Castaways keeper Sam Behn, who who stopped three breakaways in the second half.
Prior to the Terry Price Cup at Layritz on Sunday is the Doug Day Cup final with the Castaways Div. 1 vs. Vic West FC Div. 1 at 12 p.m.
It’s another rematch from last year.
In the Doug Day (Div. 1) semifinals Castaways beat Bays Utd. 2-0, on an own goal and a goal by Kate Donaleshen. Castaways keeper Lindsay Thompson earned the clean sheet. Vic West beat Prospect 4-3 in penalty kicks after a scoreless 120 minutes.
Semis for the Frank Leversedge (Div. 3 women) and Stephanie Shergold (Div. 2/masters) take place at Braefoot and Tyndall on Sunday.
In men’s play, the Mid Isle Highlanders will face Westcastle in the under-21 George Smith Cup, 12:30 p.m. at RAP on Sunday.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at RAP is the Castaways vs. Powell River in the Masters Tony Grover Cup. At 3 p.m. is the George Pearkes Challenge Cup between Campbell River of 3A and Comox of 3B.