VANCOUVER — Jasmin Dhanda never knew, in the moment, what was happening.
It was five years ago and she was the impressionable UBC rookie, the one just happy to be soaking up the experience of playing alongside senior Janine Frazao, the program’s all-time scoring leader.
Later this month, when Dhanda prepares to play her final Canada West regular season home game with the Thunderbirds, she will bring full-circle meaning to her career by simply honouring the traditions of UBC Seniors Night.
Heading into Friday’s 5 p.m. first-place provincial derby clash against visiting Victoria (the team teams are tied at 7-1-1), Dhanda, who has five more league games remaining in her regular-season career, sits just two points behind Frazao (63-61) for the most career points scored in Canada West women’s soccer history.
And even if she falls short of the record, nothing will take away from the moment on Oct. 21 when the team holds its Seniors Night festivities prior to kick-off against the Trinity Western Spartans.
As is tradition, each UBC senior walks out to the field accompanied by a former graduate of the program, and you can probably guess who Dhanda picked.
“It’s super funny, but I actually just talked to her about her record,” says Dhanda, who had earlier reached out to Frazao regarding the event. “She was such a motivation to me. She was like ‘You can do it!’ So it’s been awesome how she has been so positive about it.”
Canada West didn’t begin tracking the career records of its players until 2006 but that takes nothing away from the incredible numbers accumulated by Frazao, the Port Moody native who finished her UBC conference career by scoring 51 goals and added 12 assists for 63 points.
Ditto for Dhanda, who spent the large majority of her UBC career on the wing, and heading into play Friday sits with 40 goals and 21 assists for 61 points.
In their one-and-only season together in 2013, the pair finished one-two in team scoring, the senior Frazao with five goals and five assists and the freshman Dhanda with five goals and three assists.
As her own career winds down, Dhanda doesn’t need to strain in the least to remember the kind of mentorship Frazao provided to her that season.
“I definitely looked up to her,” Dhanda remembers. “I loved that she took me under her wing. Of course you don’t even think at the time that it would be even possible to reach her records. So all of this is pretty exciting.”
What kind of player did Dhanda see that year?
“So I haven’t seen many players anywhere who were that clinical,” Dhanda begins. “She was so smart on the field that I remember thinking she didn’t even need to move much. She always found the right spot and she would always finish.”
Jesse Symons is now in his second year as UBC head coach and while he didn’t recruit either player, no one can speak to the unique qualities of each better than he.
“Janine was and is an exceptional person,” begins Symons of Frazao, whom he coached for four years with the Whitecaps and also as part of the B.C. team that won the 2009 Canada Summer Games. “She was always team first. She was just a true, out-and-out goal scorer. She had unbelievable attention to detail in the penalty box, and she just finished her chances. Left foot. Right foot. And as she got older she got so much stronger heading the ball. She was the prototypical goal scorer.”
The current season is the first in which she has focused solely on the duties of central attack.
“The one thing you always notice about her is her work rate on the field,” begins Symons, “and the other thing is, Jasmin is getting a lot more service now.”
Moving senior defender Aman Shergill up front has made a huge difference in the overall effectiveness of both players.
Not only is Dhanda leading the ‘Birds and the nation with 11–5-16 in nine games, Shergill shares the national lead in assists with six.
“Jasmin has really just fit so well into our structure as a player,” continued Symons, who points out that she has tallied 21 goals in her past 23 conference games.
She also has collected 17 goals and eight assists over her last 15 games, dating back to this point last season.
“Before, her chances were all coming outside of the 18. Now she is looking to get into dangerous spaces around goal. We’ll see if she can keep up the pace.”
If she does, the chances of UBC winning a second national title in three seasons will be greatly enhanced.
UBC entered last season as the defending champs but surrendered a late goal and fell 2-1 in the national final to Laval.
“I think in your senior year you start reflecting on your time,” says Symons. “When you look at all the teams across all sports that have success in U Sports, it’s typically teams with older players who understand they need to go the extra little bit. We have five seniors that start for us and they are all very passionate.”
Dhanda is one of them, and her end in mind is unmistakable.
“Our main goal is to win that national title,” she says. “But the only thing we can do is to focus on each game as it comes. I know my role. (Scoring) is something I need to do for my team.”
Frazao had the same goals back in 2013, a senior season which in hindsight, so poetically bridged that of the freshman Dhanda.
And while no one knows when those figurative torches are actually being passed, perhaps we’re in the process of seeing it happening all over again.
‘Birds freshman Danielle Steer is fourth in team scoring with four goals and two assists with five games remaining, giving her a chance to top Dhanda’s freshman numbers.
So perhaps in another five years, in the weeks leading up to UBC’s 2021 Seniors Night, Steer will be the one remembering the influence of playing alongside a senior of influence.
And Perhaps, in an act of full-circle symmetry, Jasmin Dhanda will get the chance to do then, what Janine Frazao is set to do later this month.
The best part of tradition is that it never gets old.
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