COQUITLAM — Last June, as the finishing touches were being put on one of the most successful seasons in the history of Centennial Centaurs girls soccer, its longtime veteran coach could confirm a special feeling in the heart of his gut.
Rare is the occasion, Larry Moro must have thought to himself, when an impending offseason could do nothing to slow the forward momentum of a high school soccer team.
After making its first provincial Final Four in 11 years and then falling achingly shy of earning its first B.C. AAA title game berth in 16 seasons at last year’s provincial tournament, the Coquitlam school had rebounded nicely to win the bronze medal.
Add to that the fact that the Centaurs, with 11 returnees and a huge cache of rising blue-chip freshmen has automatically installed themselves as one of the teams to beat in 2018.
So on that June day, after they had rallied to beat Chilliwack’s Sardis Falcons 2-1 in the third-place final at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex, their resolve to return and see to unfinished business seemed almost palpable.
“It’s not like I had to bang the drum,” explained Moro, the weathered-and-wise 19-year coaching veteran explained late last week.
“Before we went home that day, sometime after we took our team picture, it was that team’s Grade 10s and 11s who decided to set the goal right then and there,” he continued. “They said ‘We want to be better next season’ and they wanted to get back and try again. They’re motivated to finish as high as they can.”
Fast forward some 11 months, to the end of the regular season, and Centennial, still youthful with 13 of its 21 players in either Grades 9 of 10, continues to live up to that mantra.
Set to soon begin its zone championships, the Centaurs are coming off a Fraser Valley North campaign in which they fashioned a 6-0-1 record, scoring 27 times and allowing just one goal.
Quite amazingly, however, Centennial finished second in its league to Port Coquitlam’s Riverside Secondary. The 6-0-1 Rapids, who outscored their foes 16-6, beat Centennial 1-0 back on April 11.
For the Centaurs, however, being needled by adversity has been a theme to their 2018 season.
As an example, Centennial ascended to the No. 1 spot in the rankings on April 10, one day before it would crash back down to No. 9 following its upset loss to the Rapids.
The rest of the story, however, has been the way they have collectively picked themselves up and just kept going.
According to Moro, whose team currently sits ranked at No. 8, that resiliency swells from the vibe he has always tried to capture as a hallmark of the program.
“It’s something I wanted to build from the first year I coached here, and that is a positive soccer culture, a place where kids want to play for our team,” says Moro, who is also one of the prime forces behind one of B.C.’s most enduring and high-profile girls basketball tournaments, the Centennial Top 10 Shoot-Out.
“One of the greatest compliments we get is the players telling us how much more fun they have playing here versus their club teams. That said, we still expect to compete and we still expect to win. And we do it with a different atmosphere, with kids from Grades 9-12.”
That will always be a special part of high school soccer… the ability to unite players over a four-to-five year age span on the same team.
Not only does it allow kids of all levels to play together for their school, in a lot of instances, as high school programs gain added cache through their title drives, it can bring together extremely talented collections of players.
Centennial is no exception.
When the Centaurs, and its crosstown rivals at Dr. Charles Best clashed in a key North Division game this past Wednesday, both teams sat out some of their top talent as per their game restriction agreements with local club soccer programs.
Yet despite that, an entertaining match was enjoyed by all at the Town Centre Complex.
Simon Fraser Clan signee Danae Robillard displayed the talent that will take her to the NCAA next season as she and teammate Jenelle Momotani helped lead Centennial to a 2-0 win.
Moro called up a Grade 9 player for the match, and Kiki Bowen actually wound up scoring the winner for Centennial on a set-up from Grade 10 Raegan Mackenzie in the 64th minute.
Then, in the 76th minute of the 80-minute contest, Mackenzie, who starred at last season’s provincial tourney, scored one of her own with an assist from senior Bianca Bettamin.
On Monday, the Centaurs followed suit in their final league game, beating crosstown foe Gleneagle 4-0 behind a pair of goals from Avery Tulloch and one each from Bettamin and Emily Smith.
On the season, the Centaurs are 14-1-0 overall, with 51 goals scored versus just three allowed.
Moro has been around long enough to know that in so many instances it’s a lottery from year-to-year in terms of talent and numbers.
“Every school goes in waves in terms of what walks through the door,” he says. “Coquitlam soccer is very strong and we have been getting more of those kinds of (talented) players the past few years.”
Yet there is one aspect Moro feels can be a constant, and it’s the key to his school’s program’s recent upswing.
“We want to be a different voice to the players,” he says. “We like to think that we have built a culture here which revolves as much around enjoyment as it does around success.”
The Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils (5-1-1) and PoCo’s Terry Fox Ravens (3-2-2) claimed the third- and fourth-place berths from the North into the Fraser Valley championship draw, one which will be seeded this Friday.
Among the Fraser Valley’s other powerhouse AAA programs this season: South Delta and defending B.C. champ Panorama Ridge of Surrey in the South Division; Enver Creek and Fleetwood Park, both of Surrey, in the West Zone, and both Sardis and Abbotsford in the East.
The 2018 B.C. girls AAA soccer championships will run May 30-June 1, hosted by Kitsilano Secondary and staged at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.
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