In a League of Their Own: League1 Canada Has a New Champion
The best team’s in Canadian women’s soccer converged in Langley, BC this past weekend with the winners of the country’s three semi-pro women’s leagues – League1 BC, League1 Ontario, and Ligue1 Quebec – alongside the runners up from L1BC taking on each other to crown the best women’s team in Canada.
When the final whistle was blown by Referee Sydney Berridge on Sunday night, the stats showed that one team was slated to win it from the start.
Under the lights at Vancouver FC’s Willoughby Community Park Stadium, the semi-finals would see L1Q’s PEF Quebec take on L1BC wild card Unity FC while the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Academy faced off against L1O’s Alliance United FC. With the winner-takes-all format of the tournament, it was do or die for the four squads.
EXCEL-erating The Women’s Game
Kicking off first, Unity and PEF Quebec decided to start the weekend off with a bang. Going into the tournament, both squads saw turn-around seasons during their league campaigns.
Unity made it to the playoffs and the L1BC finals for the first time in club history, and under new ownership they have a bright future ahead going into 2024. Oppositely, the Quebec branch of Canada Soccer’s EXCEL program saw PEF-Q go from seventh place in 2022 to winning both the L1Q regular season and L1Q Cup.
It would take 90+ minutes and ten goals to decide a winner here as the two squads scored back and forth until the L1Q champs sealed the deal in the 96th minute. But between the first and last whistles, a hat trick by PEF-Q’s Esther Brossard and a strike by Lea Larouche from outside the penalty area would provide ample things for the Langley crowd to cheer for.
Taking to the pitch after Unity and PEF-Q, an unstoppable object met an unmovable force as the WFC Girls Elite Academy played host to Alliance United.
Once again, a branch of the CSA’s EXCEL program had qualified for the Championship, and here the Whitecaps were nye unbeatable during their 2023 L1BC season, Having lost only 2 of 14 games over their regular league campaign, the club clinched both provincial league titles in stunning fashion. Almost poetically, Alliance United’s path to the Championship saw them play the role of ‘giant slayer’, having made it to the L1O Finals to eventual eliminate Ontario’s EXCEL side and the reigning league champs NDC-Ontario, who had gone 14W-1L-3D in 2023.
Alliance would be able to hold their own for nearly an entire half, but a handball in the 44th minute would open the floodgates for the Caps with a second goal coming off what I can only describe as pure magic. Watch below:
Even with a late volley by Alliance’s Hannah Chown behind the ‘Caps keeper, it wouldn’t be enough to make the comeback, granting the Whitecaps a spot in the finals to take on PEF Quebec on Sunday.
Winter Comes Early
The finals would bring with it a mirrored image of this year’s Canadian Championship final as the Whitecaps took on CF Montreal in beautiful BC, albeit, this time around it was their female academies duking it out for the cup.
But no matter how well the PEF Quebec played against Unity in the semi-finals, once the first ball was kicked, this game was the Whitecaps’ to win.
22 shots. 13 shots on target. Majority possession. Only two fouls.
But more importantly: FIVE GOALS.
It would be a blowout of unmatched proportions at this championship with the Whitecaps’ making the most of a leaky PEF-Q defensive line and an endless run of mistakes which consistently gave the ‘Caps the advantage.
With goals by Kierra Blundell, Joy Kimwemwe (2), Jaime Perrault, and Jeneva Hernandez-Gray, the club was awarded with their first ever League1 Canada trophy, and on home soil to boot. The Whitecaps organization at large can now boast yet another accomplishment in a very successful 2023 which includes a Voyageurs Cup, a FIFA Blue Stars Girls Cup, the League1 Canada Women’s Inter-Provincial Championship, the League1 BC Juan De Fuca Plate, the League1 BC Women’s regular season title, the League1 BC Women’s playoff title, and the League1 BC Men’s playoff title.
In the consolation/bronze medal match, the Whitecaps’ BC counterparts would eventually find success to cap off their 2023 season. Unity would take their time towards a methodical takedown of Alliance United in an otherwise even game with goals by Katie Connell and Ainsley Ewasiuk granting Unity the bronze medal.
The 2023 League1 Canada Interprovincial Championship marked the second iteration of League1 Canada’s tournament, bringing together the best clubs in Canadian women’s soccer. The Whitecaps Girls Elite Academy (🥇), PEF Quebec (🥈), and Unity FC (🥉) join the ranks of last year’s podium of AS Blainville, AS Laval, and Alliance United.
The Women’s Inter-Provincial Championship marks the end of the League1 Canada women’s season, although provincial action continues in Quebec and Ontario as their men’s premier seasons continue through the summer.