VANCOUVER, BC – For the first time outside of Quebec and Ontario, League 1 action is set to kick off in British Columbia on Sunday, May 22, with the introduction of League 1 BC.
Featuring seven clubs for the inaugural, 12-game season, there is an abundance of U SPORTS and NCAA talent on the rosters that will be critical throughout the brief campaign.
There will be one League 1 BC representative heading to the League 1 Canada showcase later in the summer, but the focus is genuinely on establishing the next level of pro-am soccer in Canada, this time west of Ontario.
With the league set to kickoff, 49 Sports looks at two players on each women’s team that could play essential roles in their clubs’ hopes for the inaugural league title.
Varsity FC – Emma Regan and Danielle Steer
With most of their roster based on the UBC Thunderbirds women’s program, the team’s core has a championship-level calibre. With Danielle Steer and Emma Regan, Varsity FC brings in two experienced players who have excelled at the top level of the collegiate game in Canada and the United States.
Head Coach Jesse Symons turns to a familiar name in attack with Steer, picking her to lead the team as one of the best university-level goalscorers in Canada, having scored 18 goals in 18 games in 2021. While the T-Birds finished the U SPORTS season fourth in Canada, Steer was clinical throughout their campaign and will hit the ground running in League 1 BC.
Emma Regan brings a new aspect to a cohesive UBC group. Heading into her senior season with the NCAA’s University of Texas Longhorns, Regan has a ton of experience at an elite level and will bring a calming attitude to the Varsity midfield, helping push those around her, including Steer, to a higher level.
Unity FC – Tilly James and Bryana Butar
Drawing mainly from the TWU Spartans women’s soccer program, Unity FC is well prepared to challenge the League 1 BC title. Like Varsity FC, they turn to elite talent from both sides of the Canada-USA border.
Defender Tilly James played an integral role with the Spartans in their 2021 campaign, starting all but one match en route to TWU’s Canada West title. James is a former New Zealand youth international, a physical centre-back who can play a defensive midfield role. League 1 BC won’t be her first experience with a BC summer team either, having previously played for the TSS Rovers in the WPSL.
With Bryana Butar, Unity draws on an elite player at the U SPORTS level and one that moved to the NCAA to test herself at a slightly higher level with the University of Memphis. While with the UFV Cascades of Canada West, Buttar earned several honours, including the 2019 Canada West Rookie of the Year, prompting her to move south, becoming a staple of the Memphis lineup.
It is a very cohesive group for Mike Shearon’s Unity FC and one that is bound to challenge for the inaugural title in a short 12-game season.
Altitude FC – Maya Morell and Ashley Stewart
The North Vancouver club may have the best-looking kits in League 1 BC, but things will be a bit tougher on the field, as many of their rosters come from the Canadian collegiate ranks, the tier below U SPORTS.
However, U SPORTS and NCAA players will continue to play an important role in their roster, none more so than 2021 U SPORTS Champion Maya Morell of the MacEwan Griffins and NCAA veteran midfielder, Ashley Stewart, now playing with Dayton University.
Morell may not have put up offensive numbers like Danielle Steer in the 2021 Canada West season, but still scored a respectable four goals in 12 games with the Griffins before moving their stingy style to the national tournament, winning the 2021 National Championship. In her rookie season in 2018, Morell set a slew of program records, including the most shots in a playoff game by a rookie, and since then, has only improved.
Deeper in the lineup, Stewart, a midfielder, returns home to North Vancouver after her first season in Dayton, Ohio. While she did not play a ton in her freshman season, she impressed in her 132 minutes, getting herself a shot on goal and adjusting well to the pace of play. Coming from a demanding league like the NCAA, it should not be a difficult adjustment for Stewart to find success in League 1 BC.
Victoria Highlanders – Katie Kraeunter and Sophie Miranda
The Victoria Highlanders are one of the few established clubs coming into League 1 BC’s inaugural season. With years in the WPSL and various women’s leagues under their belt, the club knows how to run a summer team and will look to translate that knowledge into a positive year on the pitch.
Head Coach Neil Sedgwick will turn to a fairly unfamiliar group of players, but will likely need 28-year-old Katie Kraeunter and Queen’s Gaels midfielder Sophie Miranda to lead the way.
Kraeunter brings international, veteran experience to the squad, having played in Iceland, where she won an Icelandic Cup, all after representing the Canadian national team at the youth levels. While she never got her foot in the door with the senior national team, she excelled at the University of Nebraska and will play a critical role in helping her young teammates improve.
On the other side, Sophie Miranda returns to Vancovuer Island after finishing her second season with the OUA’s Queen’s Gaels, where she won the OUA Championship on a talented team that featured RIK Karlskoga striker Christie Gray, among other potential professional players. Miranda’s talents are still very raw at the U SPORTS level, but the Cobble Hill, B.C., native has the potential to impact League 1 BC.
TSS Rovers FC – Shayla Chorney and Kirstin Tynan
One of the league’s most established clubs, the TSS Rovers, know how to run a slick operation in a summer league. Based on the TSS Academy in Richmond, B.C., the Rovers have seen the likes of Olympic Champions Jordyn Hutiema and Julia Grosso play for them and countless other Canadian youth internationals.
Led by Head coach Chelsey Hanneson, the Rovers will look to a mixed group of players in 2022, with athletes from across the country. However, former UBC Thunderbird Shayla Chorney, and OUA Champion goalkeeper Kirstin Tynan will play essential roles in a deep squad.
Chorney, a 1994-born midfielder, is on the older side of the league and paid at an elite level with the UBC Thunderbirds. While she has not tested herself at the U SPORTS level since graduating in 2017, the skills she showed then and the lessons she would have taken will help settle her in League 1. At the same time, her university experience will allow her to guide a young Rovers group. If she can step into a regular starter’s role with the Rovers, expect to see her name on many League 1 BC match reports.
Between the sticks, 2002-born Kirstin Tynan will be integral. She is coming off her rookie season with the Queen’s Gaels, stopping PKs in the OUA final to win the conference championship for the program. While she is untested at a League 1 level, she excelled in the OUA, where many student-athletes have experience in League 1 Ontario.
The Rovers are one of the most intriguing teams in the league this season, with their background as the province’s lone summer league team, and their roster with players from coast to coast. Still, they are contenders for the title alongside Varsity FC and Unity FC.
Rivers FC – Yva Rodriguez and Emily Clark
This is going to be a difficult season for Rivers FC. Sources tell 49 Sports that the team came together in the final weeks before kickoff, and the roster indicates a sort of scrambling. While their men’s program could be strong, the women will be up against it all season.
Still, there are difference makers on their roster, most notably Panamian-Canadian Yvamara Rodriguez and Thompson Rivers Wolfpack striker Emily Clark. Much of the Rivers team is based on the TRU women’s side, one of the weaker programs in Canada West, finishing second last in 2021.
Rodriguez brings international and veteran experience to Kamloops this summer. The 29-year-old made her debut with the Panamanian senior national team earlier this year and played her college soccer at SFU a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Clark showed her usefulness with the Wolfpack in 2021, starting six of nine appearances after scoring and thriving in the preseason. While she has yet to establish herself as a premier talent in Canada West, she is a quality player who can create moments of brilliance at times.
Whitecaps FC – A team effort with Anna Hauer and Nicole Anderson
The Vancouver Whitecaps have a very different setup for their League 1 BC team, intending to have players develop for university, the national team and the professional game. They’ve brought in Katie Collar to lead the team, one of the few female coaches in the league.
With the Whitecaps’ talent so young, they will have a test of maturity in League 1 BC, going up against players 3-10 years older than them. However, Nicole Anderson of SFU, the lone college player on the roster, will help them between the sticks. In addition to Anderson, Canadian U17 international Anna Hauer will be important.
It will be a team effort from the Whitecaps this season, and that is exactly why the team is in League 1 BC. 10 players recently represented Canada at the Concacaf U17 Championship, making this an extremely young but talented squad,