A season that began with nine new faces concluded with a second straight podium finish for the South Delta Sun Devils at the BC AAA Field Hockey Championships.
The Sun Devils wrapped up another outstanding campaign with a 3-1 win over Heritage Woods in the bronze medal game at the 16-team tournament held in North Vancouver.
Longtime head coach Neil McLennan wasn’t sure what to expect with a significant turnover to his roster. By the end of the three-month journey he was in charge of one of the top teams in the province.
“Our whole defensive core had graduated so veterans were asked to take on totally new roles and positions which is always a challenge but also is a growth opportunity for a player,” said McLennan.
He was careful at first, electing to play in the tier two division at a tournament in Duncan back in late September. A few weeks later they held their own against top end opponents at the Bridgman Cup in Victoria — paving the way for post-season success.
“Bridgman showed that we were developing into a very capable team as the girls became more comfortable in attack and defence. From there the girls never looked back as they become quite a formidable, committed and resilient group,” continued McLennan. “The veterans provided the necessary leadership and skill meanwhile all the new players to the team jumped ahead by leaps and bounds. By the end we moved the ball with confidence, finished our scoring chances and played some hockey that was very exciting to watch.”
The path to the podium at provincials included a big 2-1 quarter-final victory over West Vancouver as South Delta erased an early one goal deficit in what was a tight and intense affair.
For the second straight year, the Devils met Handsworth in the semi-finals and the North Shore powerhouse once again proved to be the class of the tournament. With rain pelting down, South Delta started slowly after its emotional win a day earlier.
The Royals’ lethal power game produced three goals in the opening 10 minutes and that proved to be the final score. The Sun Devils were much better the rest of the match which set them up for the bronze medal game against an old Fraser Valley rival.
A terrific start resulted in a 2-0 lead and the girls kept coming. It was 3-0 by halftime and their Port Moody opponent managed to break the shutout bid but would get no closer.
“The girls were certainly ready to play this one,” added McLennan. “Heritage was struggling to contain our attacks and were always on the back foot. They got a flicker of life with the goal but the girls quickly snuffed that again and took over total control of the game. They were not going to be denied their success.”
Earlier, South Delta went 2-1-0 in round-robin play with wins over Port Moody (6-1) and Sardis (5-0). The loss was a terrific 3-2 battle with Cowichan in a showdown of the tournament’s No. 2 and No. 5 seeded teams.
The Devils stormed back from a 2-0 deficit with a splendid second half effort to pull even. The game was decided on a corner in the late going after a somewhat controversial umpiring decision.