After 1-0 and 6-0 losses to the Vancouver Thunderbirds during the regular season, it’s easy to see why the Okanagan Challenge are considered the underdogs heading into the Pacific Coast Soccer League championship this weekend in Penticton.
Still, the Challenge aren’t prepared to concede a thing as they battle the T’Birds Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the Challenge Cup.
“We certainly have a tough game on Saturday, but this will hopefully be our chance to make up for the last time we played them,” said Challenge coach Kelly Wolverton. “I think we all knew, the players and I, that we were good enough to be playing for the Challenge Cup and now we have a chance to prove that.”
The Thunderbirds finished atop the PCSL with a 9-3 record, while the Challenge closed out the regular campaign at 5-5-2 and in fourth spot.
Okanagan’s last game on Saturday turned into a wild-west shootout as the Challenge and Kamloops Excel played to a 6-6 draw at the Apple Bowl.
John Hodnett and Carson Gill scored twice each in seesaw affair.
Wolverton said the game displayed both sides of his team—the good and the not so good—and their fate will depend on which version of the Challenge shows up for the playoffs.
“I think Saturday’s game (vs Kamloops) directly relates to our chances for winning the Cup this year,” Wolverton said. “We proved that when we’re on, we’re good and create some very good chances…and when we’re not switched-on, we are susceptible to giving our opponents good chances.”
When the stakes have been high, Wolverton said his team has played well this season.
He expects the same to hold true this weekend.
“We have good leadership within the team, which will be very important for seeing this all the way through to the end,” he said. “I also believe that because we expected to be playing for the Cup, our guys will play to that level, and the product will be good. No doubt it will be a very difficult game and we’ll have to be sharp for the full 90 minutes, but we’re certainly capable and good enough to bring the Cup back to Kelowna.”
The other semifinal Saturday at 4:30 p.m. will feature Khalsa against Surrey.
The semifinal winners will meet Sunday at 1 p.m for the PCSL Challenge Cup title.