ABBOTSFORD — Logan Mathers has always been the tallest kid in the park.
And although the 6-foot-6 goalkeeper ultimately reached his lofty height without one of those sudden spurts of verticality, the latest recruit of the Fraser Valley Cascades soccer team has never forgotten about the day he experienced his greatest growth.
“In the moment it hurt,” remembered Mathers, 17, and a senior at Surrey’s Holy Cross Regional High School, of getting scratched from Surrey United’s starting line-up for the 2017 B.C. Under-14 Provincial Cup final.
“But now I have to agree that it was the best thing that could have happened to me,” he added. “Now, I work my butt off, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without that moment.”
It’s a moment that was also not hard for Mathers’ new head coach at UFV to pinpoint as pivotal, especially since he’s the same guy who showed the tough love that day back in 2014.
“I think it’s clear he is the top goalie in his age group and has been for the past couple of years,” said Tom Lowndes, who in addition to his longtime Cascades’ head coaching role, has also guided for the past five seasons, the Surrey United team from which he has recruited not only Mathers, but seven others ahead of a hopeful 2021-22 Canada West season.
Joining Mathers as part of the Surrey United ’03 team headed to UFV men’s soccer next year: Joven Sidhu (5-9 midfielder, Fleetwood Park), Bradley Hobson (6-0 F/M, Fleetwood Park), Dulain Panditha (5-10 fullback, North Surrey), Ajaiveer Boparai (5-9 wing, Abbotsford), Parmbir Kular (5-10 midfielder, Enver Creek), Veer Sangha (5-9 fullback, Panorama Ridge), Jaskarn Sodhi (6-0 centreback, Princess Margaret).
“He has size and presence, and he is a good shot stopper, but one of the biggest positives is that he had to work for it all,” Lowndes added. “I know he won’t mind me saying, but all of this reminds me of how in that first Provincial Cup final, I decided to play another keeper instead. He has used it as motivation ever since and he’s never looked back.”
Instead, Mathers has marshalled every opportunity available, taking a multi-sport role throughout his high school experience by not only growing as Surrey United’s keeper, but adding more elements to his dynamic athletic package by playing in the paint as a big man with the Holy Cross Crusaders basketball team.
He also dabbled early on in his high school career by strapping on the shoulder pads for the Crusaders’ football team.
“I think the physicality (of basketball) has made me a lot stronger, but it’s also helped me a lot more with my cardio which is something I don’t get to do as much of in soccer,” Mathers says.
Ask Crusaders’ basketball coach Matt LeChasseur about what transfers most from the parquet to the pitch, and he’ll tell you it’s not only about adding mobility, strength and fluidity in the physical realm, but being able to carry the best of those traits from a mental standpoint as well.
“On the court he has been a hard-nosed kid, a real rim protector,” LeChasseur said before referencing Mathers’ ability to take on what was easily one of the toughest defensive assignments in the province last season: Guarding Vancouver College’s dynamic 6-foot-9 scoring big man Jacob Holt.
“When we played VC in the final of the (B.C.) Catholics, Logan had a really, really big game,” LeChasseur said of what was a Holy Cross win, “because Jacob Holt is one of the best bigs in the province, and he did a great job on him. He was super physical, he got some big blocks. We’d been under-sized in the past, so to have that presence… to be able to clean up the glass along with all of the little things he did, that’s what made him so valuable.”
And while Mathers stands a couple of inches taller than the professional keeper he most closely follows — Bayern Munich’s 6-foot-4 Manuel Neuer — the 190-pound future Cascade admits he wants to add more muscle to his frame, perhaps pushing closer to the 203 pounds carried by Neuer.
Height isn’t everything, yet it certainly doesn’t hurt if it’s coupled with Mather’s athleticism and coordination.
“He was still big, easily 6-foot, but he didn’t carry his height the way that he does now,” Lowndes admits of the presence Mathers projected much earlier in his youth career at Surrey United.
“His growth was subtle, it wasn’t three inches over a summer,” Lowndes continues. “But when you look at him now, it’s a man’s body in terms of physique. So it will be good to get him into a full-time environment. When you see him fill out, at 6-6 and say, 195 pounds, then a lot of attackers will question going in for a challenge. If we can add some weight to the size, he can be a real force.”
Mathers’ arrival next season will swell the Cascades’ pod of keepers to three as he joins a pair of 6-foot, second-year former Surrey United grads in Jackson Cowx and Joben Mander.
Given a general lack of game-tested Canada West experience within the group, opportunity abounds for all three in 2021.
“I have told them it’s what they show in preseason,” said Lowndes. “Whomever plays the best will play. It’s really an open position for who shows he wants to be the main man.”
In a lot of ways, that’s the same message Lowndes delivered to his young, second-choice keeper that pivotal day back in 2017, the day which Mathers found himself on the bench for a Provincial Cup final.
Now, opportunity has knocked at the next level, and these days, when the tallest kid in the park says “I wouldn’t be where I am today without that moment,” it comes from the heart. He’s lived it, and he means it.
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