For the first time in 29 years, the boys soccer team at Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) has a provincial ranking.
The boys returned from the provincial championships in Burnaby this week, where they played to a 14th-place ranking. The team finished with a 2-3 record, but the coach thought it was an invaluable experience.
“I think the boys really learned a lot about their own capabilities and what they could do as a team when they pulled together,” said coach Simon Ruperto.
Ruperto said a couple unlucky breaks aside, the boys could have been inside the Top 10. But it’s been something for the team to build on. Only three of the boys are graduating, so the team will mostly stay the same.
“I think we learned what it’s going to take for us to get to the next level. I think just another year of growth, just physically and technically from the team, will make us that much better,” Ruperto said.
The boys, who are mostly a junior team playing at the senior level, opened the tournament with a 1-0 win against Bodwell. But Ruperto said the game was more of a training match because Bodwell hadn’t registered some of its players so CHSS picked up the automatic win.
Later that day, Rupert fell 3-2 to Pitt Meadows. Pitt Meadows scored two early goals but the Rainmakers made some halftime adjustments and rallied, yet they ran out of time to complete the comeback.
The coach said in this game, like a few others, the difference was a penalty shot.
“Our boys try to stay on their feet, they try to play cleanly and that doesn’t always work, especially in a tournament like this when the other teams are going to be a little bit more cynical,” he said.
Players diving anytime they feel contact can be part of the game. Ruperto suggested since his boys didn’t take a dive, they didn’t get the penalty shots their opponents did.
In the Rainmakers final group game, which would decide its maximum ranking, they matched up against Sa-Hali, a team that finished second last year.
Sa-Hali won the game 3-1, but the highlight was an incredible goal by Shan Sahai, who would later be named one of the Commissioner’s 11 as one of the top players in the tournament. He finished with four goals and one assist.
Rupert then beat Richmond 3-1 by changing its strategy.
“We started the previous games quite tentative so this time, we decided to go all out attacking and see what happens,” Ruperto said. The team peaked when the game was played in a torrential downpour.
The Rainmakers dropped its final game, 6-2 to LV Rogers. The coach said he believed the team just ran out of gas after playing against bigger, more physical teams.
Aside from Sahai, he said key players were Ezekiel Appollos and Brendan Eshom, who played centre back. Both guys played every minute of every game until the final match.
The team was able to go to Burnaby, in part because of a GoFundMe page set up by one of the parents. Although money is still coming in, the fundraiser collected $3,600.
The team’s costs are already covered and the coach is hoping to have some money leftover for the future.
“It was just a really special three days for me and the boys. There was no way it would have been done without the parents, the boys, the school staff and the community itself with fundraising and providing support,” he said.