Cap-italizing The Moment: Whitecaps Academies Claim Double L1BC Title
The best of the best in British Columbian footy converged on BC Place Saturday afternoon as the finals of the province’s semi-pro soccer league kicked off. Unfortunately for the visiting Victoria Highlanders and Unity FC, this would not be their time with both squads from the Vancouver Whitecaps Boys MLS and Girls Elite Academies claiming victory and the L1BC Shield.
There would be an odd level of symmetry going into Saturday’s finals between the divisions. Both featured the Whitecaps, and both were first-versus-third seed matchups. Both third-place seeds had won their semi-final matches with four goals. Both Unity and the Highlanders had turnaround seasons this year having made the most of the off-season.
It would be a dream come true for both Whitecaps squads as they stepped foot on to the home turf of their parent club. The women’s side, having already claimed the Regular Season title and their spot in the Inter-Provincial Championship, were seeking a sweep. Meanwhile, the men’s side – having defeated the reigning L1BC champs TSS Rovers last weekend – were looking to defeat the odds as well, being the lower-ranked seed going against a strong Highlanders squad headed by #9 Michael Henman.
It would be a tense 34 minutes to start off the women’s match but once that first ball was in the back of the net, there was no looking back. A corner by Sophie Crowther would be perfectly placed to find the head of Tilly James who would nudge it home. Unfortunately for Unity, their celebrations would mark their one and only goal for the night and it would be short lived as not two minutes later, Kierra Blundell would find an unmarked Kaylee Hunter slipping through the Unity backline leaving her with nothing left to do but to nutmeg keeper Hannah Miller and tie up the score at 1.
Come the half, the score would remain tied until seven minutes later when the Unity defence were once again caught flat-footed forcing Miller to come out of her net to take on Joy Kimwemwe. Kimwemwe’s side step and right-foot strike from outside the penalty area to make it 2-1. Unity would never truly be out of it with several good chances in the second half, but when a careless challenge in the box brought down Jeneva Hernandez Gray, Kaylee Hunter’s second of the day from this PK would seal the deal on Unity’s fate. When the referee finally blew her whistle after seven added minutes, the WFC players stormed the field to celebrate back-to-back League1BC championships, having beaten Varsity FC last year for the title.
The men’s match would be a much tighter affair for all 90 minutes. It would take all of the first half alone to see the games first goal, with it being marked by none other than the Highlander’s Golden Boot candidate, Michael Henman. A feed by Cody Gysbers to a double-teamed Henman would somehow lead to a goal as his strike between the two Whitecaps defenders would sail into the top right corner past WFC keeper Cohen Park.
Hopefully for Park, he wouldn’t lose sleep over this one goal as the rest of the game would be nothing but a stellar performance by the teenage keeper. His prowess between the posts would keep out several Highlanders attempts at goal, ultimately carrying his team into a penalty shootout.
Tying it up, though, would be Yayo Mutombo who would capitalize off of an unsuccessful free kick to net one for the ‘Caps. Left completely undefended in the far corner of the penalty area from where the free kick was taken, a failed clearance attempt by the Highlanders would give a quick tic-tac-toe chance to Mutombo who’s left footed strike would sneak past Daniel Zadravec.
It would take eight rounds to decide the winner.
⚫️🟡: ❌ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ❌
🌊🔵: ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ❌ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️
Another stellar save by ‘Caps keeper Park would leave the Highlanders on edge, but when Nik White’s shot was stopped, extra rounds were required. Come the 8th round, one final diving save by Park on Gordon Hall would mark the moment that both Academies claimed their respective league titles.
2023 marked the sophomore season of League1 BC, the provinces pro-am soccer competition and founding member league of the League1 Canada alliance. As winners of the men’s and women’s regular seasons, the Victoria Highlanders and the Whitecaps Girls Elite squad have qualified for the Voyageurs Cup and the Inter-Provincial Championship ship respectively. Details for the 2024 iteration of League1BC are expected later this year.