PREVIEW: League 1 BC season comes to an end with BC Day Finals

VANCOUVER, BC – If the League 1 BC Final were on a major TV network, there’s little doubt that the song “Years in the Making” by The Arkells would blare over the pregame and halftime track. 

While the song can be overused, it fits Monday at Swangard Stadium. For several years, a standards-based league has been in the works in British Columbia, and on Monday, the first-ever champion wil be crowned. 

“Years in the Making,” to be sure. 

League 1 BC will crown two champions on BC Day 2022, with the women’s final pitting Varsity FC of Point Grey and the Vancouver Whitecaps U19s against each other, while Varsity and TSS Rovers battle for the men’s title. 

WOMEN: Varsity look to continue hot streak against Whitecaps 

While Varsity FC is already confirmed to be the BC representative heading to the women’s inter-provincial championship in Laval, Quebec, a win would give them an extra push towards that title and add an element of legitimacy to the pseudo “Canadian League 1 Championship.”

(CREDIT: Ben Steinr)

As the top team in the regular season, Varsity are the outright favourites against the Whitecaps. While the Whitecaps have several players at 14,15,16, and 17 years old, they have adjusted to playing bigger, stronger competition throughout the campaign. 

The first game between the two sides ended 3-0 in favour of Varsity and the second 4-1 the same way. Still, the Whitecaps showed strong pushback, particularly in the second game controlling most of the play in the second half. 

In the final, however, previous results don’t matter; it’s just what the two teams can do in 90 minutes. 

“It’s a great opportunity for the girls to compete in a final,” Whitecaps head coach Katie Collar said to “Not a lot of players or teams get to compete in a championship game, and they’ve been able to do it in their inaugural season. So it’s a pretty cool opportunity, and we’re just excited to see what we can do.”

Varsity came into the season with expectations to play on BC Day; the Whitecaps, on the other hand, a bit less so. They knew they had the technical qualities, but physical and maturity barriers could have stood in their way. At the end of the regular season, those didn’t deter the Whitecaps as they found their way to the final. 

The Whitecaps team that takes on the last day of the season is very different than the one that opened the year, as many of their players, including starting goalkeeper Bella Lister, left for NCAA commitments. 

(CREDIT: Ben Steiner)

Among those who stayed, though, were Iba Oching, Anna Hauer, Jaime Perrault, Jeneva Hernandez-Gray, and stalwart defender and captain Clare Logan. Each of their players is highly talented technically, including those integrated midway through the season. 

“I’m proud of the young ones that have now stepped up when we said goodbye to our grade twelves,” Collar said. “We obviously missed them and wish them well, but it’s been a really good opportunity and learning for not just the kids but also for me.”

For Varsity FC, all the pressure on them. With a cohesive group and some of the best attacking players in the league, the team based on the UBC Thunderbirds is the outright favourite to win the final. 

Whether it’s Canada West golden boot winner Danielle Steer leading the way, SFU’s Jenna Baxter, or fellow Thunderbird Katalin Tolnai, head coach Jesse Symons has tremendous attacking talent to draw on. So in the final, and with the U SPORTS season fast approaching, don’t expect Varsity to hold back very much, if at all. 

(CREDIT: Ben Seiner)

Two players who have been crucial to their success won’t feature in the final as Texas Longhorne Emma Regan has returned to the NCAA, and her teammate Holly Ward, although available, won’t risk injury ahead of representing the Candian women’s U20 National Team at the U20 FIFA World Cup. 

“We’re feeling really good; we had good sessions this week. Obviously, we have the Canadian finals a week and a bit out, but we wanted to make sure that we end this with a title,” Symons told 49 Sports. “The first 20 minutes are going to be very important, we’ve been able to get on them pretty quickly in both games, and we will want to do that again on Monday.”

One of the strengths that Varsity could turn to for an early goal is set pieces, with many of their players towering over the Whitecaps youth. However, it is more likely a player such as Sophie Damian or Katelyn Erhardsen pulls strings in midfield in a buildup to a goal. 

Varsity are the outright favourites in the women’s final. Still,  the Whitecaps surprised many by even qualifying; there’s no reason they can’t throw in another surprise to end their season. 

MEN: Varsity and Rovers clash on the men’s side

If you’re looking for a match without yellow cards, find something else to watch on Monday. When Varsity Fc and TSS Rovers clash in the League 1 BC Final, there is little chance tempers don’t flair from the first to the final minute. 

(CREDIT: Ben Steiner)

While the two teams have several connections off the pitch, there is much animosity between the sidelines. From exceptionally talented midfielders, to two of the most talented attacking players in the league, Monday will be a fantastic match. 

Varsity and Rovers played two tightly contested games this season, with TSS capturing all three points in the away fixture with a 2-1 win before falling 2-0 in the reverse match at home. 

Leading scorer Erik Edwardson and midfielder Mark Talisuna have been standouts for Rovers this season and will be called upon to have a big game on Monday. At the same time, Jun won-Choi has been one of the league’s premier attacking defenders and can push Varsity in various ways. 

(CREDIT: Ben Steiner)

On the Varsity side, former Vancouver Whitecap Caleb Clarke will look to continue his strong form ahead of a rumoured professional move after the League 1 season. Meanwhile, Victory Shumboshu, Bradley Richardson and Thomas Gardner will all look to punish their opponents. Centre-back Joe Zupo has also proven to be a force this season and could provide additional attacking support, particularly on set pieces. 

Regardless of the results, it will be a special day for many who have put effort into growing soccer in the province, few moreso than the TSS Rovers supporters group, The Swangardians, who, along with over 150 others, are club owners in Canada’s first supporter-owned football club. 

Final predictions: 

WOMEN: Varsity FC 5-2 Whitecaps U19

MEN: TSS Rovers 3-2 (after PKs) Varsity FC

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