For this team, soccer is not just sport, it’s family.
After losing 13 members of Oak Bay High school’s senior soccer team to graduation, the 2014 iteration had big shoes to fill following second-place finishes at both the AAA Island Championships and the Provincial Championships in 2013.
With the final tournament days away, coach Brent Garraway said the team’s unbreakable camaraderie gelled them to meet those expectations.
“The Grade 11’s that played last year have stepped into an amazing role as leaders in their 12th year and they have carried on what the program means to them into the season,” Garrison said. “They have instilled that into the younger players and the younger players that came in have done an amazing job quickly understanding what it’s going to take to be successful.”
Beating Belmont High school to finish first at the four-game AAA Island championships mid-May, their first such victory since 2009, has proven to be a catalyst for the soccer team helping usurp last year’s second place finish heading into the final tournament of the year to be held May 29 to 31 in Vancouver.
“One of the huge things for us is team bonding. The girls look at each other as a small family on the field, it makes you fight for each other that much more,” he continued.
“Every year we want the Oak Bay program to be known as one of the hardest working programs in the province.”
Natasha Gutierrez, one of seven returning players from last season, said the camaraderie has been buoyed that much more by the team’s athletic and humanitarian efforts seeking goals in competition, and scores of donations outside of it.
The team pays its own way to and from various tournaments – saving donations for a team goal of raising $10,000 for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.
“The bonding is something that always comes when you are on a team but never quite like it is on this team,” she said. “(But) it’s not just about playing soccer, it is not just playing on a team with your best friends, it’s more than that. If you put your mind to it and all the effort you have into it, you can do great things and help people who really need it.”
For Holly Goodacre in particular, that endeavor has been especially meaningful. The 15-year-old forward who leads the team in goal scoring including two hat tricks in the AAA Island Championships, lost her father to stomach cancer a year-and-a-half ago when she was in Grade 9.
“He was my number one fan. He loved soccer, it was one of his passions so he is definitely a huge influence in my life,” she said. “I play for him and this means a lot to me because of him. … We are playing more than for just Oak Bay, it’s for a bigger cause. Each goal we score helps us reach our goal of $10,000.”
With approximately $4,000 of the fundraising goal achieved, and with provincials days away, Garraway said the team continues to work, peaking for the final game of the year, with both their goals firmly in sight.
“I’m proud of what the girls have already achieved this year. We try to make it much more than soccer,” he said. “We try to make it so they are learning life lessons every practice and every game, and build relations between each other. They are one of the most tight-knit groups I have ever worked with at the school.”
To donate to their cause go to donate.bccancerfoundation.com/goto/OakBaysrgirlssoccer.