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Tri-Cities athletes part of Canadian soccer's first-ever youth world cup

Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam products helped Whitecaps FC Girls Elite win the 2023 title in Switzerland — one even scored a goal against a (very) prestigious club.
Tri-Cities athletes Iba Oching and Noelle Sather compete for Vancouver Whitecaps FC's Girls Elite squad, who won the 2023 Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in Switzerland. | Handout |

World champions.

Coquitlam's Iba Oching and Port Coquitlam's Noelle Sather are reeling in a Canadian soccer first as the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite athletes recently won the 2023 Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup.

The international tournament showcases some of the best youth club football teams.

Vancouver's League 1 BC (L1BC) squad was among eight clubs invited to Zürich, Switzerland — the only one from North America.

The Whitecaps defeated FC Basel (Switzerland) in a shootout in the finals match on May 18, marking the first time in history a Canadian or North American team has hoisted the Blue Stars trophy.

And that includes for either the girls or boys side of the annual tournament since its inception in 2018.

Oching notched a goal in the Whitecaps' preliminary match against the world-renowned Juventus F.C.

The 16-year-old forward scored the opener in what would ultimately result in a 4-0 victory against the Italian stripes.

This helped the Caps' reach the knockout stage on goal differential after drawing their first match 1-1 against Grasshopper Club Zürich.

Vancouver went on to win its semi-final clash 1-1 (5-3 on penalties) over FC Zürich Frauen before prevailing in another shootout, 1-1 (5-4), to win the 2023 FIFA Youth Cup.

Sather was held off the scoresheet, but the 17-year-old midfielder used her speed and awareness to help the Whitecaps maintain ball possession.

Fellow Tri-Cities Emily Wong and Jeneva Hernandez-Gray — both from Coquitlam — did not travel to Europe with the team due to an injury and an under-20 national team commitment respectively.

Last year, Oching, Sather and Hernandez-Gray helped Whitecaps FC Girls Elite win the 2022 L1BC championship in its first-ever campaign.

They all represented B.C.'s provincial team at the 2022 Canada Summer Games, too.

Oching, a member of Canada's under-17 national women's roster, is committed to Syracuse University in NCAA Div. I women's soccer for 2024.

That same year, Sather will be in Tampa Bay at the University of South Florida.