Whistler soccer star Taiga Iida came up big for the Vancouver-Coastal entry at the B.C. Summer Games in Abbotsford from July 22 to 24.
Iida, 15, scored the game-clincher in two of the team's three wins in group play to help put the team in the final. However, once there, the squad was shut down in a tight 1-0 loss to Thompson-Okanagan that was decided by penalty kicks.
He scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Fraser River, the eventual bronze medallist, and tallied the first two against Northwest to kick-start the attack in a 4-1 win. To open the tournament, the team eked out a 2-1 win over Vancouver Island.
"That game (against Fraser River) was our toughest game. Our striker drew a penalty and I decided to take it. They were winning 1-0 and if I scored, I was the hero. If I didn't score, I don't know. I think everyone would be disappointed," he said. "I was very nervous to take it, but I ended up scoring. Then it went into halftime and it was 1-1 until the last 10 minutes where I scored another goal and made it 2-1. The whole team went crazy."
Iida said the loss in the championship game was disappointing as Vancouver-Coastal pushed hard, but couldn't quite find the score it needed.
"It was very unfortunate that we lost. I think our team was very sad to get the silver medal when we could have got a gold medal," he said. "We had a lot of chances that didn't get in the back of the net."
Iida usually plays midfield on the right side, but he shifted to the left side for the Games. The minor tweak didn't faze him as he still played a major role.
"It wasn't really different. It's kind of where I normally would play," he said. "But with new teammates, I got used to it and it was good."
Even with the result that wasn't what he was hoping for, Iida was thrilled and honoured to be part of the experience.
"It was very special. At first, I didn't really know what the B.C. Summer Games were and then I realized how much of a big tournament it was and I was really excited," he said.
Going into the team's first training in April, Iida said he only knew one player, but once they got going, he connected well with the others.
"I knew some people from other games I'd played, but I'd never really talked to them. It was a good experience meeting new people on my team and other teams as well. I made a lot of friends," he said.
Iida has hopes of playing in the EA Sports B.C. Soccer Premier League in 2017, noting he's been training with Mountain United FC.
Iida is also working as an assistant coach in the Whistler Soccer Club this summer.