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Eight Tri-Cities athletes hoist B.C.'s semi-pro soccer league titles

This includes four from Coquitlam, three from Port Coquitlam and one from Port Moody from the women's and men's sides combined.

The Tri-Cities was well-represented on the B.C. semi-professional soccer championship pitch last weekend.

A group of eight Coquitlam-, Port Coquitlam- and Port Moody-developed players aided their respective Whitecaps FC academy squads to the women's and men's League1 BC titles on Saturday (Aug. 5).

The women claimed their second consecutive Juan de Fuca Plate, while the men won their first-ever championship since the leagues were formed in 2022.

Girls Elite

Whitecaps FC defeated Unity FC (Langley) by a score of 3-1 in the final at BC Place.

Coquitlam's Jeneva Hernandez-Gray provided an assist on Joy Kimwemwe's game-winning marker in the 52nd minute.

She recorded two shots and goal, including one off the post, and also drew a penalty in the 18-yard box in the 82nd minute, which led to a converted penalty kick by teammate Kaylee Hunter to seal the victory.

Hernandez-Gray started the match alongside Tri-Cities athletes Iba Oching (Coquitlam) and Noelle Sather (Port Coquitlam) — all were members of the 2022 League1 BC championship team, too.

Port Coquitlam's Emily Wong also received a medal, but was sidelined for most of the season due to injury.

Oching and Sather also travelled to Zürich, Switzerland, with Whitecaps FC Girls Elite in late May and returned home with the 2023 Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup.

The ladies finished atop the League1 BC regular-season standings with an 11-1-2 record.

The provincial champions are now looking to add a national banner to its 2023 collection.

Whitecaps FC are gearing up to host its semifinal match of the Inter-Provincial Championship against the League1 Ontario-champs Alliance United.

Kick off at Langley's Willoughby Community Park goes for 7 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 11).

MLS Academy

Meanwhile, four Tri-Cities players contributed in their own way on the men's pitch later that Saturday at BC Place

Chad Baker (Coquitlam), Amir Ghasemi (Coquitlam), Kyler Vojvodic (Port Coquitlam) and Nikolas White (Port Moody) each played a significant amount of time in helping Whitecaps FC MLS Academy to its inaugural provincial semi-pro title.

"I felt like we had ups and downs in the season; a lot of ties, but we persevered and this is what this team is about," said White, 21, who developed with Port Moody SC and plays for Harvard's NCAA men's soccer team, following the victory.

"We build strong character, we have a very good culture in the group and it means the world."

While none made the scoresheet, they rallied through 90 minutes and a shootout to defeat Victoria Highlanders FC 1-1 (7-6 on penalties).

Ghasemi and White were part of the starting 11 for the gold-medal game. Ghasemi recorded one shot on goal, while he and White also went into the referee's book with a yellow card each.

Baker and Vojodic came on as substitutes in the 72nd and 79th minute respectively.

League1 BC is one step below the Canadian Premier League (CPL) for the men, two from the Major League Soccer (MLS) system.

Whitecaps FC MLS Academy finished third in the regular-season standings with a record of 5-7-2 before getting hot in the playoffs to ultimately topple the top-seeded Highlanders (10-2-2).