Though she spent the first nine years of her life in Manitoba, Amber Gregory considers Chilliwack her hometown.
And that’s why the soon-to-be-graduated G.W. Graham student is so excited about the next step in her soccer career.
The tenacious center-midfielder has signed on with the defending CIS champion University of the Fraser Valley Cascades, which means she’ll be sticking close to home for the immediate future.
The 17-year-old has been fantastic for her high school club this year, helping the upstart Grizzlies to a 5-1-0 regular season record in the AA East league.
But the scholarship opportunity came about through her work with the Abbotsford Soccer Association’s metro program.
“My coach in Abbotsford (Peter Errington) was also the coach at UFV a couple years ago and he saw me play a lot,” Gregory explained. “When I was with Abbotsford’s U-17 team I got called up to the U-18 team for a game. Peter told me it was one of the best games he’d ever seen me play, and if I stuck around there would be scholarship opportunities.”
Errington passed her name along to current UFV coach Rob Giesbrecht, who met with Gregory to discuss the program.
“We met at a Starbucks in Chilliwack and he told me about himself, his coaching philosophy and stuff,” Gregory recalled. “The meeting ended with him giving me a letter of intent to sign.”
With tuition rates for one semester running in the $1,600 range, Gregory had set her sights on a soccer scholarship several years ago.
Having that letter of intent in hand was exhilarating.
“To know that I had done well enough to draw interest from someone, that was definitely exciting,” she admitted.
Gregory’s game might not be the flashiest on the planet, but her safe style is exactly what coaches love. A responsible and cerebral player, she makes it a priority to keep the ball away from the opposition and she makes the right play far more often than not.
“If I have the ball and I don’t see anyone open, I’ll hold onto it rather than just kick it away,” she said of her patient approach. “I’ll kick it off the field if there’s no other option, but I really strive to not turn the ball over. And if I get knocked off the ball I’ll get it back. I don’t give up.”
That approach has made her a key player for the fast-improving Grizzlies, who are the latest GWG team to turn the corner and suddenly become title contenders.
Through the six game regular season schedule the Grizzlies scored 29 goals and surrendered just five, with Gregory working the ball up to talented finishers like Janelle Tucker, Kristie Voitic and Kayla Unger.
Finishing her fourth and final year with the Grizzly girls, Gregory says it has been fun watching the team develop.
“This year especially I’ve noticed a lot of big improvements, where everything the coaches have been trying to teach us has caught up with us,” she said. “Working harder on and off the ball, better movement and play making — the whole team really works together better now than we ever did before.”
Their near spotless regular season had the Grizzlies in line to host Surrey Christian in the Fraser Valley playoff opener Monday, with the winner moving on to another game Wednesday.
Gregory would love to cap her high school career with a provincial run before joining the Cascades.
“This season has been very enjoyable because of the winning,” Gregory said. “We’ve evolved into a better team and I’m happy that I’ll be able to look back on my last year as a successful one.”
And then, off to university.
“I’ve played summer league with a lot of the girls on the Cascades,” Gregory said. “The first couple times I was pretty intimidated and nervous, but I’ve calmed down and I hope that I can fit in well and play my game.”