After a break from competitive soccer, local talent Jennifer Yamaoka will return to the pitch this fall to suit up with the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s soccer team.
Yamaoka joins a strong recruitment class for the Heat’s inaugural foray into the Canada West conference of the CIS.
The second-year student and Kelowna native is well known to Heat coach Claire Paterson, who coached her older sister in the Super Y league, as well as her cousin, Hayley Uyeyama, who just wrapped up her own outstanding career in Heat uniform.
“I am very happy that Jennifer has decided to join our program this fall,” said Paterson. “She comes from a very athletic family…she is quick with a great leg to whip dangerous crosses in and will be an important part of rebuilding our back line.”
Like her cousin, Yamaoka will take a post on the defense, and although only 5-foot-5 she will, like her graduating predecessors, Hayley and Jennifer Kidd, will use her lo-base to attack the ball from the fullback position against the upcoming Canada West competition. Both graduates needed their cleats to be listed at 5-foot-2 and were successful for the Heat, so Jennifer’s extra three inches will be put to the test in Canada West where players are generally bigger and stronger.
Yamaoka was captain of her Rutland Secondary high school squad her Grade 12 year in 2011, and won the Female Soccer Athlete of the Year award that same year. She played in the Super-Y league 2007 to 2010 and was a reserve in the PCSL in 2009 and 2010.
“I decided I wanted to play for UBCO because they have an excellent coaching staff and a really talented group of girls,” Yamaoka said before going further into her reinvigorated interest in the sport. “I am excited to get back into the competitive aspect of soccer and I look forward to next year when we compete at the CIS level.”
Another member of the Heat to study Nursing at UBC Okanagan, Yamaoka chose that program because it is “a career that requires a large amount of knowledge about many specialized skills.”
Soccer isn’t the only sport that Jennifer excels at, the Rutland graduate played hockey, capturing a provincial title in 2006.
Jennifer looks to utilize her hockey experience and add that to her soccer skill set. “My position during my hockey career was defence. Although hockey and soccer are played in completely different settings,” explains Yamaoka, “the teamwork and the object of the game are identical. In both sports it is essential that you work as a unit in order to progress towards the net of the opposing team. Like any sport you need to have a strong work ethic and motivation to practice in order to be good team.”
Yamaoka’s team now will be part of a rebuilt Heat soccer team that captured four straight provincial medals and will now move up to Canada West, she is Claire Paterson’s fifth signing this spring and second from Kelowna joining Courtney Hemmerling is a hometown forward. Cassie Bratton is another inked forward, she hails from Calgary along with Susan Traynor while Emma Nelsen, another midfielder, hails from Vancouver.
The UBC Okanagan Women’s Soccer team is having try-outs open to any full time student at UBC Okanagan. Walk on evaluations will be held Aug. 8 to 11. The team will start playing preseason games on Aug. 16 in Washington versus Northwest University and Evergreen.