Competitive league sets stage for provincials

The Fraser Valley North league has always been one of the most competitive in the province with a history of success at provincials. This season, which launched on Monday, promises more of the same after Centennial, Dr. Charles Best and Port Moody secondary schools finished amongst the top four teams at the recent Guildford Park Tournament held at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. Here’s a preview of the Tri-Cities’ teams.

Centennial SS

The Centennial Centaurs are picking up right where they left off after winning bronze in last year’s provincial championships, despite losing some key veterans to graduation, like leading scorer Catrina Olstrom and former captain Kara Pilcan.

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The team already has six wins and no losses in early-season tournament and exhibition play, and they’ve outscored their opponents 21-2. Head coach Larry Moro said his young roster, with 13 players in either grade 9 or 10, is “skillful and have a strong work ethic and compete level.” One of those, grade 10 centre back Jessa Vance, will be counted on to lead the team’s back line.

Other players Moro will be looking to for leadership include midfielder Danae Robillard, defender Janelle Momotania, who’s strong at both ends of the pitch, and grade 11 forward Kiara Buono, who has the speed and skill to finish around the net.

Heritage Woods

The Kodiaks went through league play undefeated last season, but faltered in the Fraser Valleys. Several of that team’s core group of players have graduated and coach Julie French will be looking to her younger players to fill the vacuum.

A key one will be grade 9 goalkeeper Paige Moriarity.

Having an unknown quantity guarding the net is not unfamiliar turf for the Kodiaks, who played most of last season with centre back Charlotte Hall standing between the pipes after starter Ellie Baker was felled by an injury to her achilles and the team had no backup.

Moriarity will be supported by the solid defence of grade 11 defender Charlotte Hall. But it’s up front the Kodiaks have the potential to do some damage with grade 12 striker Jayden Nielsen commanding the pitch with her physical presence, grade 12 centre-midfielder Maddie Low distributing the ball, Mya Mills striking with speed and Lauren Guillemet and Hailey Counsell making plays.

“This group of players will be a good ball movement team and strong defensively,” said French.

Gleneagle

The Talons have never been a powerhouse in girls’ soccer, but head coach Terai Short says this year’s squad has “the drive and talent” to be competitive.

Short said the “tenacious and tough” Talons will be led by a core group of seniors: Emma Keller, a hard-working forward and midfielder; Risa Fox, the team’s defensive captain; and goalkeeper Melanie Osborne, whose skills stopping the ball are matched by her leadership.

Up and comers include: grade 9 forward Hanna Peterson and left midfielder Kelly Miada; grade 10 forward Lucy Robinson and centre midfielder Salma Eljazam who Short said has tremendous foot skills and distributes the ball well to her teammates; and grade 11 midfielder and defender Mimi Kim whose determination  and runs to space provide her teammates with plenty of options to make plays.

Dr. Charles Best

The Blue Devils qualified for provincials last year, but this season they may be poised to make some noise.

Coach Alfonso Napoletano said this year’s squad could reap the rewards of playing and developing together for the past two years.

“Our team has great chemistry and leadership on and off the field,” Napoletano said. “We have strength and depth in all positions.”

Much of that strength will come from a core group of seniors who’ve already committed to post-secondary institutions for the fall. They include: Leah Favaro and Maya Lewis, who will be attending UBC Okanagan; Ella Sutton, who’s committed to Trinity Wester University; Daniella Bravaro, who’s headed to University of the Fraser Valley; and Gabriella Turner, who will be going Langara College.

Riverside

Rapids’ head coach Kenny Jamieson has the rare luxury of not having any roster spots to plug from players who’ve graduated.

That experience, he hopes, will serve the team well as they battle to make a run at Fraser Valleys.

“If our team plays at their best level, they have the ability to compete with any opponent,” Jamieson said.

Key players include grade 12 forward and team captain Brooklyn Macdonald, whose speed and touch with the ball will be counted upon to create scoring chances. Versatile midfielder Lauren Watson is another senior who can make things happen from anyplace on the pitch.

The Rapids’ defence will be led by Sophie Irvine, a grade 11 player who Jamieson said brings “toughness to the field.”

One of the new faces on the team is grade 9 forward Kelsey Stewart, a dynamic competitor who, Jamieson said, has already shown some ability to score goals against tough competition.

Port Moody

The Blues are back. 

After a year off following a stint in the hinterlands of the Burnaby/New Westminster league, Port Moody secondary is fielding a squad in its home district again. Head coach Edward Roberts is enthusiastic the program is here to stay.

Although, he admits, it may have some challenges in a very competitive league. Of primary concern is the loss of the team’s starting goalkeeper, Ghazai Fallaphour, who sustained an injury in the pre-season. Edwards said the grade 9 student could be healthy again in time for the Fraser Valleys.

To get there the Blues will look to the foot of team captain Ziyana Samanani, who already has a full-ride scholarship at Rice University secured for next year. Grade 10 striker Sophia Gaskel can also do some damage. In fact, she already has when one of her cannon shots sent a prospective goalkeeper fleeing after a tryout.

Terry Fox

If opposing teams want to beat the Ravens, they’ll first have to get the ball. That’s because Fox is committed to playing possession soccer this season says head coach Jennifer Dalrymple.

And she’s confident the team has the personnel to pull it off.

They include: veteran grade 12 midfielder Emma Thomas, whom Dalyrmple said has “unforgiving desire and endurance;”  grade 11 attacking forward Haley Perri who brings skill and commitment to the pitch; and grade 11 defender Tahlalea Marks whose excellent positional awareness makes life tough for opposing forwards prowling for open space.

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