From word of mouth to bonding as a team, a quintet of New Westminster teenagers came together to play key roles at the B.C. Aboriginal Soccer championships last week in Prince George.
Taylor Spong and sisters Brianne and Shianne Lowka and Madison and Sydney Fowler united with their respective teammates to steamroll the competition at the Indigenous soccer tournament.
Brianne Lowka’s under-18 Fraser/Lower Mainland squad was a perfect 5-0, beating Vancouver Island 9-0 in the final to claim the provincial title and a berth to next year’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto.
Not to be outdone, sister Shianne Lowka, the Fowler siblings and Spong also marched undefeated through five games, beating Vancouver Island 3-1 in the championship match.
Neither Lowka sister knew what to expect when they arrived in Prince George.
“When we went up I thought we’d be competitive,” said 16-year-old Brianne. “I thought it would be fairly equal and we’d have to play our best.”
The u18 team out-scored its rivals 31-0. Brianne finished with six goals in the tourney.
As passionate as she is about soccer, the whole tryout – which began in May – and run-up to the tourney provided her ample time to show that the knee injury which wiped out most of the 2015 Royal City season was behind her.
“You think about being recognized by my name but what’s most important is representing my hometown and the logo on the front,” Brianne said.
While the u18 team didn’t have a lot of prep time in the way of games prior to the tournament, they were adopted by a local men’s Chinese soccer team which sponsored them and provided some scrimmage competition.
The u15 team, meanwhile, thrived in a tighter division with a couple of close victories in Prince George. Thirteen-year-old Sydney Fowler, a defender, said the final proved to be very close.
“We felt some pressure because we’d already played (Vancouver Island) and won in penalties, but we had a good second half.”
As 15-year-old Taylor Spong recalls, the final minutes of the final were dramatic but also led into a great team celebration.
“The last five minutes of the game we knew we were winning, and when (the referee) called the game we just got together, crying,” she said.
Madison, 14, said the best part was how the team bonded quickly under strenuous playing conditions.
“Everyone worked well together and there were like no cliques,” she said.
All four New West players started each game, with Shianne Lowka, who scored 15 goals over the five games, and Spong receiving all-star nods.
With the win locking up a spot at the NAIG next year in Toronto, the accomplishment means all the more, said Sydney.
“I think it’s pretty special to be on the team, to go to the NAIG,” she said. “For everyone it is pretty new and special.”
“I only learned a few months ago about (NAIG) and now I’m quite proud that we made it. I can’t wait.”