Yukon Junior Strikers soccer team is building a reputation down south, as U9 coach Grant Zazula has discovered.
In line at the concession stand at the Mini Gobbler Soccer Fest this past weekend in Burnaby, B.C., Zazula was confronted by a youngster from a team the Strikers played at a tournament last January.
“I asked him what team he was from and said, ‘I think we tied you guys.’ And he had a look on his face and he said, ‘No, you beat us 1-0 and you play us tomorrow and we’re ready for you,’” said Zazula.
“I guess we have a bit of a reputation now.”
The Strikers’ notoriety lived on at the fifth annual Thanksgiving competition.
The team won three of four matches in the U9 development division for rep teams — the highest U9 division in the tournament.
“Under the B.C. Soccer Association they are not allowed to declare … winners of tournaments — anything under 12. They don’t present medals or awards for standings in a tournament. It’s kept as more of a friendly event then,” said Zazula. “They’re not even allowed to release the results of the tournament, but we were definitely a top-two team.”
The Strikers, which was the only co-ed team with two female players in the division, opened with a 3-2 win over the First Nation Soccer Association. Cameron Bringsli, who is only seven years old, scored twice and teammate Samuel Watson scored the other.
They then topped Comox Valley United 4-1 with two goals from Cody Adams, and individuals from Bringsli and Watson.
Next came a 3-1 win over North Vancouver FC with a goal from Jesse Johnson and two more from Bringsli.
The Strikers then fell 2-1 to the Port Moody Warriors with a goal from Adams.
“The team really played well defensively as a unit, all working hard covering the opposition players. They really made our goaltending job a lot easier by limiting scoring chances by the other teams. Some really great hard working defensive play, hustle and coverage by Marwin Mamis, Brody Nash, Lachlan Wood and Malcom Murchison,” said Zazula.
“Some sweet heads-up passing by Roman Zazula, who was able to move the ball out of pressure and get it to others to create scoring chances. There were several near goals by Zeph Giam who was bound and determined to score all weekend but just came up short several times.”
The Strikers continued to shine in a pair of exhibition matches on Sunday. They tied Vancouver’s KLM Football Club 3-3 with two goals from Adams and one from Andrzej Benson, then beat Burnaby’s Wesburn Soccer Club 2-1 with goals from Adams and Bringsli.
The Strikers went undefeated to win gold in the U8 division at the 29th annual Indoor Soccer Tournament last January in North Vancouver — the tournament the youngster at the concession stand referred to.
“They jell on the field and they’re all becoming best friends too,” said Grant. “These tournaments are incredible bonding experiences for these kids. They play on the field and play at night in the hotel room and swimming pool and it’s just a great life experience to have that bonding that goes through when you travel as a team.”
The U9 Strikers were joined in Burnaby by another Yukon Junior Strikers team that had less success.
The team, with players ranging from nine to 11 years old, competed in the U12 house division and came away with one win.
“Down in Vancouver there’s usually U8, U9, U10, U11, but we don’t have that many coaches and we have a lot of kids who want do it, so I took basically three years of kids,” said coach Geof Harries. “So I had very small kids alongside very big guys playing together.”
The U12 Strikers took four losses (two by one goal) in the round robin but secured a 3-2 win over Coquitlam in an exhibition match. Zach Sapluy scored twice and Bretton Horte once for the win.
“I think every player came home with some sort of injury, you know, as a reward for hard work,” said Harries. “It’s aggressive play and some of our players are literally half the size of players on the other team.
“We have some pretty brave kids who did really well.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com