Entropy is a way of describing the disorder and randomness in any given system; when you add cream to a cup of coffee and stir, the resulting mix would be in a high state of entropy because the individual substances cant be separated once joined.
At the heart of sport there exists a state of entropy because the infinite possible outcomes of any given contest defy all attempts to logically isolate winning factors into a successful formula. Systems can be developed, skills can be honed and plays can be practiced, but just ask any fantasy pool owner and they’ll be able to tell you that on any given day, nothing is certain. The addiction is this: every once in a while, the correct coagulation of skill, belief, effort and teamwork manages to transform desire into results as the chaos falls into order and the body gets that winning shot of endorphins.
This having been said, the presence of the Nakusp Cougars at the B.C. School Soccer A provincials is nothing to be taken for granted; effort and sacrifice are essential to any winning equation regardless of the chaos. It is essential that we maintain the understanding that the phenomenon of making it to the provincial stage doesn’t become ordinary just because Nakusp holds onto a long tradition of attendance.
Provincial qualification does not just happen, it is something that the boys earn through hard work that is supported by a network of people who take care of the fringes of the chaos. It is through philanthropic acts like Cheryl Black volunteering her van to be used as transportation to Abbotsford, or Jay Gardner stepping into the unexpected coaching vacancy that create opportunities for the boys to be relived of the details and focus solely on their performance.
The B.C. School Sports soccer A provincials is a three-day event where 16 teams from around the province battle for the coveted “banner” which is awarded to the winner of the tournament. There are seven zones and each zone is allocated a number of berths based on a no-nonsense formula of population. The resulting 16 teams are divided into four pools based on a regular season seeding system. In the first round, each pool engages in a round robin format with points awarded for wins and draws. The results of the pool play shuffles the teams into a cross-pool match, which then determines the ordering for the final games that position finishing places. This year, the Cougars were thrown into a pool with old familiars Glenlyon, Kelowna Christian and new comers, Hazelton.
The first match against Kelowna Christian was characterized by the metallic thrum of the ball hitting our goal post five times as the frantic Kelowna offence exploited our defensive line. The funeral knell overpowered the resolve of our Nakusp athletes, and despite several glimpses of outstanding soccer, the Cougars fell to a difficult 1-3 loss.
In the next game against Glenlyon, the frantic pressure of Kelowna was replaced by the calm, controlled patience of a well-disciplined squad. The Cougars, relieved of the constant pressure in the defensive zone, responded in kind to the Glenlyon’s technical game and, for the first half, both teams put on a clinic of finally executed soccer. Glenlyon floated a couple of uncatchable shots over the head of keeper Ryan Deacoff, but the game was still within reach at the half. Unfortunately, the second half found the game inexorably slipping in favour of Glenlyon, and the Cougars could not hold up against the patient attack of their opponents. The Glenlyon offence managed to find the back of the net seven times without being answered by our own offence.
On the next morning the heavens opened up, and the famous west coast weather drenched pitch and player for the early morning game against Hazelton. Both teams were looking for their first pool win and clashed head to head right of the whistle. The game was a mash-up of dirty dangles and just enough introverted push and shove go unnoticed by the ref. Hazelton drew first blood with a slick goal through an opening in the defensive line, but was quickly retorted by our own Nate Hawe before the half was up. Hazelton regrouped during the five-minute respite and charged back on the field with a new game plan that pushed our Cougar’s backs up against a wall. For 35 minutes the only time the ball left our defensive zone was to be placed on the centreline for an after-goal kick off. The Cougars were caught exposed and could not solve the quagmire of the Hazelton’s offensive pressure; we bowed our heads to a 1-3 loss.
The Cougars were wrestled to the bottom of the pool and faced the cross over match against Fraser Lake, who were similarly 0-4 in pool play. The resulting contest was a match that heralded a return to the fundamentals and basic movement that garnered success during the regular season. The pace was quick, the ball was moved from east to west and the field opened up a number of open lanes for our offensive powerhouses to gather speed and hammer away at the net. A stellar performance earned the boys their first big W to the tune of 4-0 and settled their chances at 13th or 14th place in the tournament.
The provincial tournament was going to be summed up with a match against Mulgrave private school and the Cougars confidently took the field fresh off the success of the previous game. Back to basics, play your own game and trust in the system were the mantras Jay Gardner intoned during the warm up, and with a ferocious roar of “Mugndi!” the boys engaged in their battle.
Sport is a funny thing; a team can do everything right and seemingly have the correct game plan, but any number of x-factors can affect the outcome and nothing is guaranteed out on the field. Perplexed, the boys escorted the 14th place plaque off the soccer pitch in game that could only be described as unlucky. A random bounce, a slip of the cleats and shots that couldn’t quite thread the needle into the onion sac amounted to a bewildering 0-2 loss for the Cougars.
At some point analysis can come dangerously close to the act of making excuses, and the boys will have to walk that line in the aftermath of their performance at the provincials. The concept of entropy is not an excuse, just as earning an invitation to provincials is not the desired end to the means. Our boys in grey can be proud of their individual efforts, whose skill can stand up against anything we witnessed during the course of competition, but the provincial chaos broke us down, and any team, on any given day, is not just the sum of its individual parts.
The good news? We have a whole year to stoke the smouldering burn of retaliation into a frothing blaze for next season.