Higlanders FC U19 Capture VISL DIV 2 Title
VICTORIA, B.C. – Victoria Highlanders FC U19’s captured the 2018-19 Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) Daily Colonist Trophy by clinching the VISL Division 2 Championship on Saturday night. The U19 team finished the year with a 11-5-2 record on their way to a 38-point campaign.
“This Highlanders and Pacific Elite Soccer Institute initiative to run a VISL Division 2 team provides a much-needed pathway for player development,” stated Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf during the initial announcement of the VISL club joining the Highlanders’ organisation back in August of 2018. “Now determined young island players will have an even greater opportunity to reach their soccer goals.”
Going into the season, the addition of a VISL club created opportunities for players to develop their skills on a year-round basis. With the same players having a chance to compete for a spot on the Highlanders’ USL League Two first team and Pacific Coast Soccer League reserve team for the summer months.
While it was a very successful inaugural season for the Highlanders FC U19 program, the squad still faced adversity and challenges along the way. Playing solid tactically and coming together as a team helped push them in the right direction in regard to their development.
“For the boys it’s a good step. For their first year, being a young group, to win the league it definitely shows that they may be ready to take that next step into our Division 1 program and that’s exactly what we wanted them to do going into the next year,” stated Highlanders FC assistant coach Vikram Virk. “They had tough games where they were challenged and pushed, it wasn’t easy, but they came through in those moments. It was a good environment for them as young players to continue to grow and learn.”
Highlanders FC U19 Roster:
|Maurizio Abdi||Alexander Dorscheid||Jagdev Grewal||David Despagne|
|James Gray||Senay Haile||Madhi Hammoud||Bilaal Hassan|
|Hiyabu Hiyabu||Noah Lechelt||Kadin Martin-Pereux||Leo Nakabayashi|
|Oluwademilade Oyenuga||Martin Trapero|
Highlanders FC U19 were led by a potent offence that scored a division-high 50 goals. Leading the way in the goal department were Mahdi Hammoud, Noah Lechelt, and James Gray. 16-year-old Hammoud converted a league-leading 19 goals on the season, which topped all divisions in the VISL.
“He scored a lot of big goals for us,” added Virk about the young forward. “He always delivered in moments where we needed a goal late in games and the team did well to find him and get him into those situations. It was a big plus to have that consistent run of goals from him.”
Being such a young roster at its core, the U19 squad’s impressive run in both the VISL Division 1 (in partnership with Westcastle FC) and Division 2 did not go unnoticed by the Highlanders FC front office.
“Our entire core philosophy has been centred around giving opportunities and platforms for players in our community to grow and develop,” stated Highlanders FC co-owner Mark deFrias. “Many of these young players have left their homes, and provinces, at a young age to train full-time with Thomas’ and the academy program. Their dedication to their training, and hard work in the classroom, is a testament to the drive these players have. We’re so proud of their efforts and commend them on the successful season – a small victory on their development pathway.”
Well done on an incredible 2019 season, lads!