Justine Chiba is a dinosaur.
Not in the traditional sense of being old or outdated.
She’s only 17, after all.
Nor is she a brought-back-from-extinction T-Rex. You’d have heard about it before now if she was.
Nope, the Sardis secondary school student isn’t lizard like in any way, other than her choice of post secondary schooling.
Starting this fall, she’ll play soccer in Calgary, home of the University of Calgary Dinos.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of Dinotown jokes lately,” she laughed. “A lot of people don’t like to the logo (see above), but I love it and I’m proud to be a Dino.”
Chiba is the latest in a string of local athletes securing CIS scholarships. In recent weeks we’ve seen Jenika Bannerman (GW Graham) and Hayden Lejeune (Sardis) commit to the University of Victoria. GW Graham football star Jake Creasey is heading to the University of Manitoba, and track standout Jesse MacDuff is heading to Simon Fraser.
One of Chiba’s soccer teammates signed on with the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades last week. McKenzie Hildebrand made that choice, and Chiba came oh so close to joining her.
“But I knew I wanted to live away from home, live in dorms and have more independence,” she said. “If I went to UFV I know I’d have stayed living at home and depending on my parents. I wanted to have more adventures.”
It was fortunate circumstance, a twist of fate, that landed Chiba on the Dinos’ radar.
When a Calgary-area youth soccer team heading into a tournament found themselves short of players due to injury, they looked to Chilliwack, of all places, for help.
“They didn’t have enough players to play, and their technical director knew my coach in Chilliwack,” Chiba explained. “They talked and our coach asked some of us if we wanted to go help them out.”
Chiba and a handful of Chilliwackians crossed the Rockies on the goodwill mission.
Chiba’s impressive play caught the attention of the right person.
“I didn’t know at the time, but the Calgary coach turned out to also be an assistant coach with the Dinos,” she elaborated. “Also, my coach in Chilliwack (Rob Giesbrecht) is good friends with the head coach in Calgary (Troye Flannery). Once I got back, he put in a good word for me. It just seemed like it was meant to be.”
Chiba was invited back, this time for a campus tour.
“I was there in the summer, when it was really warm, but I’ve been told to buy more jackets,” Chiba chuckled.
On Wednesday afternoon, Chiba led her Sardis Falcons into battle against the Chilliwack secondary school Storm.
She scored a goal in a 4-3 win, and showed why any CIS team should have been interested.
“I’m an aggressive player getting the ball, I go in strong but legally, and once I have it I try to be strong and not get knocked off,” she said, delivered a self-scouting report. “And once I get the ball I try to calm it down, see what my options are and make the best pass to keep the game moving.”
Apparently she’s got a deft touch around the net too.
Her goal against the Storm showed precision finish — a well placed shot from 15 yards out, slotted inches inside the left goal post.
If there’s one downside to her game, it’s her stature. Standing five-foot-four at most, she’s one of the smaller players on the field. But it hasn’t hindered her yet.
“I’m pretty small, I guess, but I don’t let anyone push me around,” she said. “I can jump pretty high and it won’t be an issue if I want the ball more than them.”
Chiba’s seen some CIS games, taking in UFV and Trinity Western (Langley) matches.
“Their players are amazing, strong and talented,” she said. “Growing up I’ve always wanted to be like that but never thought I could. Now, seeing I have the potential to be as good as them, it’s a really good, inspiring feeling.”
Before she heads east, Chiba will lead her Falcons through one last season. She hopes it ends with a provincial berth.
“We have a young team with a lot of Grade 10s, but they all play club soccer,” Chiba said. “We had 40 girls try out and a lot didn’t make it. So there’s a lot of talent, and our ultimate goal is provincials.”
l The Falcons finished fifth at last week’s Best of the Best tournament in Chilliwack.
Chiba had goals in four of five games as Sardis beat Valleyview (Kamloops), Powell River, Windsor (North Vancouver) and Langley.
The Storm, meanwhile, finished seventh overall (2-3) with wins over Lake City (Williams Lake, 6-0) and Abbotsford Christian (4-1).