VANCOUVER — One of the most revealing traits which has surfaced some two-plus months into the B.C. high school sports re-start is just how big a factor student-athlete camaraderie was during the cancelled 2020-21 season.
It’s an intangible topic to be sure, but teams which stayed together as much as the health protocols would allow and, perhaps even more important than practice, maintained a bond of togetherness, are the ones creating the most inspiring plot-lines as the current fall season of play hits its stretch drive.
For just such an example, you need look no further than the east side exploits of the Vancouver Tech senior boys soccer team.
Absent from the big dance for what is believed to be almost two full decades, Tech’s Talismen have booked, in the last week, an inspiring return to the B.C. senior boys AAA championship tournament Nov. 25-27 at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
“We had such a competitive group from two years ago (in 2019)… the Grade 12s on that team, and how they motivated the Grade 10s that were also on that team,” begins Samantha Smith, herself a 2017 Tech grad, and if not one of the youngest coaches in B.C. high school sports at age 22, certainly also one of its busiest, doubling as the head coach of the school’s senior girls basketball team which is set to begin play in about two week’s time.
Currently, Smith works at Strathcona Elementary as a supervision aide.
Those Grade 10s, of course, are now her heart-and-soul seniors, and their energy throughout a Sea-to-Sky AAA championship tournament in which the Talismen finished third overall with wins over both Vancouver College and Kitsilano, was critical.
“All of that carried through our training sessions (in 2020) and it was all about, for them, how we were building for this,” adds Smith. “Having that mentality during the pandemic, that they wanted to make this a reality… it’s what really motivated them.”
Yet while its name has faded from the headlines of Vancouver city championship contenders over recent years, Smith has appreciated the cache of history preserved through the many banners adorning the gymnasium walls documenting a glorious past history.
And for those not aware, Van Tech boys soccer has indeed enjoyed a glorious past.
The Talismen won B.C. titles in 1948, ’55 and ’56. The closest it has gotten since was a second-place finish in 1981, losing 2-1 to Killarney.
There has not been an all-Vancouver public school final since, a span of 40 years, and as well, no Vancouver public high school has won the B.C. AAA title since that year.
The closest since?
Most memorably, No. 1 seed Templeton Titans, featuring the late, great Domenic Mobilio fell 2-1 to No. 7 seed Sutherland Sabres of North Vancouver in the 1986 final. As well, Kitsilano finished second in 2008, losing in the final to North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals.
In a comprehensive 1998 article in The Vancouver Sun, reporter Dan Stinson, in his tribute to longtime Tech head coach Arnold Evanson, listed such B.C. luminaries as Dale Mitchell, Colin Miller, Guido Titotto, Bruce Miller and Dino Alberti as all having played for Van Tech.
Now Tech players are ready to start making a little history of their own.
Two weeks ago, in an on-campus Sea-to-Sky quarterfinal match, the Talismen got a pair of goals from its Grade 10 striker Griffin Lynd and shutout netminding by Grade 10 keeper Owen Cole Davies in a 2-0 win over the Vancouver College Fighting Irish, the 2018 B.C. AAA champs.
As is the charm of high school soccer, Davies is a striker on his community team but volunteered to play in net for the good of the side.
Last week, as the conference moved to its Final Four round, Van Tech came up shy 3-2 in its semifinal against West Vancouver’s Sentinel Spartans.
Senior midfieler Razan Rosham twice knotted the game before the Spartans tallied the game winner late in the second half.
Tate Davidson, the multi-positional senior, scored the lone goal as the Talismen took third in the conference with a big 1-0 win over a Kitsilano Blue Demons side which has been a thorn in its side for many years.
Smith pointed to the leadership of Davidson and fellow senior Albert Cole Davies, each a team captain, as a steadying influence throughout the campaign.
And while Smith herself turns all spotlight on her players, Tech athletic director Ken Li is quick point out the level of maturity she has brought to her players.
“She is someone who, the word I would use to describe her, is honourable,” said Li, a 2000 Van Tech grad, who like Smith, has never really left the Talismen athletic scene, even after graduation.
“It’s the way Sam has gone about building our boys soccer team, and especially the Grade 12s,” continues Li of Smith. “She holds them accountable, and there are consequences if they don’t perform in school.”
Smith hints at returning back to school, potentially to earn a teaching degree, and she’s already shown signs, at her young age, of being one of those difference-making coaches within the public school system.
“I definitely want to continue education,” says Smith, who started her coaching career at Tech in 2015-16, where as a Grade 11, she took a Grade 8 girls basketball team and stuck with them through their senior year, where they won the Vancouver City Tier 2 senior title in the spring of 2020.
“Every year, I say that maybe this is the last year because I am going to go back to school, but then I get these Grade 10s and Grade 11s asking me if I am going to come back. I always say ‘OK, sure.’”
There are few B.C. high school titles tougher to win than soccer, with its unforgiving round of pool play, yet if togetherness and belief are going to count for anything, keep your eyes peeled for these Talismen.
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