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Years of commitment pay off for soccer pals
A group of West Shore-based players who have come through minor soccer together and tasted success this season with the Victoria Highlanders women's reserves have grown together in more ways than one.
Midfielder Jenna Brown and defenders Lindsay Hargreaves and Claire Joyce, Juan de Fuca soccer club teammates since they were 10, and midfielder Brooklyn Mayoh, a teammate for the past few years, have put in the long hours of training and know what it takes to get better on the field. They've had each other to bounce things off, especially on the soccer road trips together.
This tight-knit foursome, each of whom has another year of high school left, played key roles as the Highlanders captured the Pacific Coast Soccer League title with nine wins and two ties in 12 matches, and reached the playoff final before suffering a narrow 2-1 loss to Penticton.
"It’s a rare and amazing experience to grow up with a group of girls that, after years of friendship and sport, still have the drive and passion to push each other and ourselves to new heights," says Hargreaves.
The rangy defender, who will attend the University of Nebraska on a soccer scholarship in 2015, considers herself lucky to have experienced the highs and lows with her buddies over the years and watching them develop as people and as players.
"Our success this year can only be a product of the hard work of everyone involved with the program, from coaches to managers to players, and the chemistry that everyone on our team has built throughout the years we have spent together."
The Highlanders were the youngest team in the reserve women's division, playing against teams stocked largely with college age players, said head coach Dave Dew. The foursome helped create a team chemistry that helped the Highlanders gel as a team he said.
The development of his young players – 2014 Belmont grads, midfielder Maddi Gill and forward Marisa Livingstone, are also part of the West Shore connection – left Dew marvelling at their accomplishments this season.
"The grade 11 and Grade 12 years are probably the most important," he said of women's soccer. "Those kids came in last fall with me and they really grew over the winter. They were playing on an exhibition basis in the Lower Island Women's Soccer League. To go from there into the Coast League and win the league, they grew by leaps and bounds."
Brown remembers the lean early days playing gold level soccer for Juan de Fuca. Those teams weren't the strongest, she admits, and mainland sides would routinely walk all over them.
"In the past two years we have really improved as individual players and as a team," she says. "Winning the league has been a huge achievement. Winning this year is really special for the four of us, because we know exactly how it feels not to win a game for years."
The young women credit their early coaches, including U11 coach Tim Golden, for steering them in the right direction and challenging them to be their best.
"I give a massive amount of credit to my club and school coaches, especially Lloyd Powell (assistant coach at Belmont), who has put in so much time and effort during the teachers strike," said Joyce. "Without my club coaches, like Dave Dew and Tim Golden, I would not have amounted to the player I am today."
While Hargreaves is the lone member of the West Shore group to have a scholarship in the bag, Livingstone has committed to attend and play at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops this fall.
Brown hopes to play and go to school outside of her hometown, but has yet to decide whether to stay in Canada or travel south to the U.S.