The hardest part of coaching, according to University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer bench boss Alan Errington, is getting players to believe in themselves.
All too often during the Cascades’ tenure in the Canada West conference, that belief had been lacking, and it showed. Over seven previous seasons, UFV didn’t make the playoffs once.
But after finally breaking through this fall and qualifying for the post-season tournament, the Cascades carried themselves like they belonged, winning two of three games at UBC’s David Sidoo Field last week to claim a Canada West bronze medal.
“Once we got in the playoffs, it was a totally different team,” Errington said. “There was more belief there.
“It’s fantastic for the boys to get a bronze medal. They’ve worked really hard, and I’m just delighted for them.”
The Cascades opened the tourney with a 1-0 quarter-final win over the Alberta Golden Bears on Thursday, with Colton O’Neill scoring the winner off a feed from Kree Byrne in the 86th minute and keeper Mark Village posting the clean sheet.
UFV met host UBC in the semis on Friday, and came in with a great deal of confidence as the only team to beat the defending national champion Thunderbirds this season. The Cascades thought they’d opened the scoring only to have the officials rule a UBC defender cleared the ball off the goal line; UFV insisted it was across. The T-Birds eventually prevailed 2-0.
“It would have changed the way we played (if the goal had counted), tactics and what have you,” Errington noted. “But it would have been a travesty of justice if UBC hadn’t gone to the nationals, with the record they’ve got. But we would have taken it with a smile on our face. We gave them a good game.”
In the bronze medal match, UVic carried the play in the first half and took a 1-0 lead into the break on Cam Hundal’s goal. But the Cascades were the better team in the second half, and rallied for a 2-1 win on strikes by Justin Sekhon and Ryan Liddiard. Josh Brown set up both goals.
In the aftermath, Errington reflected on how difficult it’s been to get the program to this point.
“It’s been a tough go,” he acknowledged. “It’s not an even playing field recruiting, inasmuch as UBC and Trinity and UVic have all got fantastic facilities and we still don’t have a field. It’s difficult to recruit the top players, because their programs are so advanced.
“But hopefully, we’re over the hump and have finally got the idea of what we can achieve if we work hard,” he added.
“It’s huge for the program – it was a history-making weekend, really.”