Members of the Thompson Okanagan Football Club U13 girls team can forever look back at June 26, 2016 as the day they had a hand in making history.
The TOFC squad secured the regional program’s first ever B.C. Soccer Premier Cup title on Sunday at the Apple Bowl with a 3-1 victory over Coastal FC.
Head coach Brian Dewar said his team’s win at the highest level of youth soccer in the province is a testament to the commitment and skill of each and every player on the team.
“It’s very satisfying to see, to make a little bit of history for the club, to be able to take the cup is something these girls will never forget,” said Dewar. “To see this group of very special players come together in a fairly short time and win they way they did, it was great to watch.
“They set goals all year and reached them every time. Seeing them develop and increase their abilities along the way, it was amazing.”
After a tentative start Sunday which saw the home side fall behind 1-0 early, TOFC kicked its game into gear and began pressuring the Coastal defence.
Following a penalty to Coastal, Abi Taneda connected on a free kick to tie the game 1-1 heading into half time.
“Once the girls rallied, you could tell they really wanted it,” Dewar said. “We started putting pressure on their defence and frustration really set in for Coastal.”
TOFC carried that momentum into the second half, and when Coastal was penalized early for another infraction, Taneda slotted her second free kick of the afternoon for a 2-1 lead.
Five minutes later, TOFC added some insurance when Chloe Alex and Ava Wright helped set up Kate Cartier for the game’s final goal.
“There were hugs and high-fives all around,” Dewar said of the post-game celebration. “It was the reward for all the work they put in.”
Comprised of players from Kelowna, West Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Kamloops, the U13 girls were one of 10 TOFC teams to take to the pitch this season in the B.C. Soccer Premier League.
Competing against clubs from all across there province, TOFC teams face their share of challenges, including considerably more travel and a much smaller pool of players to choose from than their Lower Mainland opponents.
TOFC general manager Kai Tolpinrud said the significance of the U13 girls win can’t be overstated.
“This is monstrous for the program, to win at the highest level of soccer in B.C. means a lot,” he said. “With all the travel, the player numbers, and shorter season because of the climate, we’re at a disadvantage. We really have to work hard to compete with teams on the coast and island, so this is an extra special accomplishment.”
Five years after moving into B.C. Soccer’s top youth league, Tolpinrud said the program continues to evolve and TOFC teams are now competitive across all age groups.
Toplinrud undoubtedly hopes the U13 girls’ win is a sign of things to come.
“It’s fantastic for the program going forward,” said Tolpinrud. “The league and B.C. Soccer are extremely happy that we’re having success. More and more kids are coming through TOFC and we’re proving we can compete with the rest of the province.”
Next season, Thompson Okanagan FC will field 11 teams, boys and girls, from the U13 to U18 age groups.
The BCSPL U13 champs are: Liesl Milovick, Kiera Howaniec, Allison Amy, Ava Wright, Sophia Clarke, Kate Cartier, Annika Gross, Chloe Alex, Lauren Schmidt, Abigail Taneda, Ava McLennan, Jordan King, Paige Cates, Chloe Dalgarno , Macalle White and Jaidyn McGrath.
The coach is Brian Dewar, the assistant coach is Randy Schmidt, and Tracie Dalgarno is the manager.