For the second time in the last three years, the Sardis soccer Falcons are competing for a AAA B.C. championship.
The Falcons are in Burnaby tomorrow (Thursday) morning for the start of the 16 team provincial tournament. They face the Handsworth (North Vancouver) Royals in their opener, and take on South Delta later in the day.
Malcolm Mackenzie is one of the Sardis captains and can’t wait to get started.
“I think we’ve got a chance to go all the way,” he said. “We’ve got a really good defence, and if we can score some goals we have a really good shot at it.”
Mackenzie was in Grade 10 when Sardis went to provincials in 2017. He didn’t play much, but it was a memorable experience.
“Being there and being part of a winning team, I just remember it was a proud feeling representing our school,” Mackenzie recalled. “It’s all about representing Sardis as well as possible and trying to make those five provincial games the best five games of your season.
“It’s not necessarily the best team in the province that wins. It’s the best team over those five games, and the team that shows up will win.”
Sardis will face some early adversity in the tournament.
Starting keeper Carter Rodrigue is suspended for the first two games, leaving the goaltending duties (likely) to Kelton Tisdale.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome of his situation, but there’s not a lot we can do about it,” said Sardis co-captain Cam Van Der Torre. “Yes, we’ll be missing a key player. But we have a good enough team where we can come together and become even stronger because of that adversity.
“If we can win those first two games without Carter, then nothing will stop us the rest of the tournament.”
Van Der Torre leads the Falcons back line and knows it’s important to limit shots on Tisdale, a capable but inexperienced keeper.
“It’s always nice having Carter back there because I know he’s reliable and if something does get past us, he will protect the net,” Van Der Torre said. “So there is pressure, but we have to play those first two games like there is no tomorrow, because if we don’t, there won’t be.”
“We want Carter to have a chance to play meaningful games,” Mackenzie added. “He’s given so much for this team, bailed us out so many times, that we want to thank him by giving him the chance to be in some big-time provincial games.”
Among the players who could make a big difference are Yanik Vargas and Ben Harris.
Vargas plays left back and Harris plays in the middle next to him.
“They don’t make it down the left side when Yanik is out there,” Van Der Torre said. “And with Ben playing next to him, good luck to anyone who tries it.”
Up front, one of the team’s key players will be one of its youngest.
“Connor (Harnett) is a Grade 10 striker who is really quick, and really strong for his size,” Mackenzie noted. “He is a guy who surprises a lot of people.
“Sardis will have a lot of good juniors moving forward, which is a good sign for this program’s future.”
Big picture, the Falcons now stand alone as the only senior boys high school soccer team in the city.
Chilliwack secondary’s entry folded halfway through this season due to lack of numbers, and GW Graham has not consistently been able to field a team.
Mackenzie and Van Der Torre credit the soccer culture at Sardis, nurtured by head coach Shaun Calver, for their success.
“Everyone loves being a part of the team and everyone knows they’re going to show up and have a good time,” Mackenzie said. “Everyone wants to do their best for Mr. Calver because of all the time and effort he invests in us.”
Beating Abbotsford to win the first-ever Eastern Valley Athletic Association banner two weeks ago was huge.
A top five showing at provincials would be a reasonable goal, with the potential for more.
In the last high school soccer adventure for Mackenzie and Van Der Torre, going out as B.C. champs would be the ultimate dream.
“I don’t even know what I’ll be feeling after our final game and I know there will be a lot of emotions coming up,” Van Der Torre said. “Mostly, I think I’ll be happy that I was able to play with the boys and be a part of a team that made it to provincials twice.”
— The full roster for the 2019 Sardis Falcons includes Mackenzie, Van Der Torre, Harnett, Harris, Vargas, Rodrigue and Tisdale along with Tobi Regehr, Malakei Moore, Jake Driscoll, Sam Corke, Kole Nelles, Macayle Marchuk, Avraj Atwal, Kailen Herrin, Austin Kuehn, Justice Victor, Hudson Bergen and Clayton Bornmann.
Follow provincials online at bcsssc-com.webs.com/aaa-provincial-championships