The West Vancouver Rangers U18 soccer club's ascent to the top of the Metro Select League (MSL) has been a work in progress for a number of years.
The squad, which features Whistlerites Fraser Doak, Goyo Toyoshima, Noam Steele and Aiden O'Heany, defeated SF DCS 2-1 in extra time on March 11 to secure the title.
"We had almost no subs, so we all had to work really hard and play through it," O'Heany said. "We went down at the beginning of the second half, but came back at the end of the game to send it to overtime."
SF DCS was the defending champion and a general juggernaut in the MSL. Letting them get on the board first could have sunk the Rangers' spirits, but O'Heany said they steeled themselves and found a way to win.
"We didn't necessarily shift. We had a bit of a slow start to the game, but when they scored, we didn't fall down. You could tell that every one of us wanted to win, so we kept pushing. Once we got that goal, we carried that momentum through the game," he said. "It was one of those games that was four years in the making. Every year, we got better and better and climbed the ladder.
"We trained really hard and our efforts paid off."
Over the years, the Rangers have generally been thrifty when it comes to giving up scoring chances, but had trouble generating their own. However, in recent seasons, they've gradually found their way as attackers and a true threat.
"We have a balance. We are more of a defensive team — we were the least scored-against team in the league, so our defence is very strong. We've added a few strikers in the past few years, which added up our goal count," O'Heany said.
O'Heany and Toyoshima have been with the team for three seasons while Doak and Steele are four-year vets. Doak, who received a red card in the previous game and had to sit out the final, has enjoyed seeing the squad rise.
"When I first joined the team four years ago, we were bottom of the table. Each year, we progressed up the table and moved up three or four places each year," he said. "My first season was the first year we got this new coach. He got rid of a lot of the old players and redid the team. Each year, we've gained a couple new players in spots where we needed them."
As the second wave of Whistlerites, O'Heany feels welcome among the West Van brethren.
"After we joined the team, after the first year, we basically became family. We love it," O'Heany said.
The Rangers will now look forward to provincials in July in Richmond.
"It's our first year going. Last year, we just missed out on provincials and this year, we can finally go," Doak said.
Added O'Heany: "It's just about carrying the energy that we had in that game (the final)... It's a game of heart."