A Coquitlam soccer star is a national champion, thanks to two gusty shootout wins to reach the top of the podium.
Elijah Dos Santos defended the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Wolfpack to its first-ever U Sports men's soccer national championship on Sunday (Nov. 13) in claiming the top trophy for the sport in Canadian collegiate athletics.
The number five-ranked hosts defeated the UBC Thunderbirds in an all-Canada West final. The score was 2-1 after TRU won 6-5 on penalties.
This added to a memorable first full season for Dos Santos as the 19-year-old defender was named to the conference all-rookie team prior to playoffs.
Dos Santos, a Dr. Charles Best Secondary graduate, logged 1,215 minutes in 14 regular-season matches and aided in the back-line's efforts to only allowed a second-best Canada West low 10 goals in 15 games this year.
The TRU business student scored one goal in that span, but added another at nationals as the comforts of Hillside Stadium in Kamloops proved to be the Wolfpack's big advantage.
He put his team up 2-1 against Cape Breton after poking a corner-kick ball off his head and into the back of the end in the 92nd minute of additional extra time in the semi-final on Friday (Nov. 11).
The Capers 15 minutes later to force the shootout and Dos Santos came up clutch by scoring on the Wolfpack's first attempt, ultimately leading to a 3-2 victory for the host school and a ticket to the final.
In the gold medal match, he stayed on the field for regulation and extra time — 120 minutes in total — and scored that critical first goal once more while leading off on penalties.
TRU sealed the storybook season by beating UBC 6-5 in the shootout to win the U Sports banner, 2-1.
Dos Santos, an alum of Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club (CMFSC), was joined by Port Moody's Jordan Low with his own all-rookie nod, following a breakout year with Trinity Western (TWU).
The midfielder, and graduate of Heritage Woods Secondary, played in all 16 games for the Spartans, scored two goals and added one assist in his first crack at Canada West.
As well, Coquitlam's Janko Vong capped off his five-year university soccer career with a selection to Canada West's first team all-star roster.
The Alberta Golden Bear and former Best Blue Devil played in all 17 games in his senior season, recording one assist, seven shots and 1,459 minutes on the pitch.
Vong fell just short of some hardware as Alberta lost to Mount Royal in the conference bronze-medal match.
Meanwhile, Sophia Ferreira walked away from the U Sports women's soccer championship in Québec City without a medal around her neck.
The Coquitlam defender's UBC Thunderbirds lost their opening match 2-1 to host Laval on penalty kicks, who also beat the blue and gold for the bronze medal at the 2021 nationals tournament.
The T-Birds rallied back on the consolation side, claiming fifth place at the eight-team event with a 2-1 record.
Ferreira, who was named a Canada West first-team all-star, logged 250 minutes of playing time in those three games and registered one shot on net.
The 20-year-old player was named MVP of the Canada West championship after successfully defending UBC's backfield, and adding an assist on what would be the game-winning goal, to a 2-1 victory over TWU on Nov. 5.