With a trip to the national championships on the line, the under-18 boys team from Magnuson Ford Mariners FC simply wouldn’t be denied.
The Abbotsford side crushed the Shuswap FC Selects in the Provincial ‘A’ Cup final on Sunday at Hugh Boyd Park in Richmond, winning 5-0 to punch their ticket to nationals in Fredricton, N.B. in October.
“This was our year, and we weren’t going to let this slip away,” Mariners captain Colton O’Neill said afterward. “Going to nationals was the goal, but we’re not happy just with this. We’re looking to win nationals now.”
The Mariners’ dominance was comprehensive – they raced out to a 4-0 lead at halftime, and could have easily tacked on three or four more goals with a little better finish. But it’s a measure of the lofty standard they’ve set for themselves that they weren’t entirely pleased with the performance.
“That wasn’t us at our best – no disrespect to the other team,” Mariners head coach Alan Errington said, noting that his team hadn’t played a meaningful game since winning the Coastal Cup final six weeks ago.
“We’re normally a bit sharper. But the attitude was good, and the commitment.”
Connor O’Neill and Daniel Molendijk scored two goals apiece, while Nick Haywood added a single. Centre back Sahib Phagura was named game MVP, while keeper Matthew Kidwell was rarely tested en route to the clean sheet.
“I don’t think they had a shot on goal, in all honesty, and that was a credit to the back four,” Errington said. “We base our game on how well we defend. I was very pleased with them today.”
It’s been eight years since an Abbotsford boys soccer team won a national title – the U18 Mariners won in back-to-back years, 2002 and 2003.
“This re-establishes that we’re one of the best clubs in the province, if not the country,” Errington said. “It reinforces what we’re doing. We’re trying to develop teams to peak at the under-18 level. We’re not too concerned about trophies at the younger age levels. It’s at under-18 where all the development comes to fruition.”