The Douglas College Royals faced the toughest challenge of their successful season on the other side of the country.
With four games in four days against some of the best women’s college soccer teams in the country, the Royals were pushed to their limits.
The Royals, with more than half of their players residing in Surrey or Delta, were crowned provincial champions for the second time in two years. That punched their ticket to nationals, where they travelled to Halifax to compete in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) women’s soccer championships.
They came into the tournament ranked as the fourth-ranked team in the country. Right away, they faced off against the NAIT Ooks, the third ranked team in the country.
They were able to beat them 1-0 in a matchup between two of the best teams in the tournament.
The Royals reward for winning their quarterfinal matchup was a date against the number one ranked team in the country, Élans de Garneau. The college from Quebec City came into the tournament as three-time champs.
“Our group gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” said head coach Chris Laxton. “We kept them frustrated all game long, and it took a good strike in the 82nd minute to beat us.
“That game got a lot of people talking about our team,” he said.
Élans de Garneau would end up winning the tournament for a fourth time. The Royals loss to the eventual champs set up a letdown game against the Algonquin Thunder, where they lost 2-0.
“It was tough to regroup after the game against [Élans de Garneau]. We came out flat and they were the better team in that game,” said Laxton.
After losing to Algonquin, the Royals faced off against the Grand Prairie Regional College Wolves, where Laxton’s team won 1-0.
It was the third time in a row that the Royals made it to nationals, and the team keeps gaining experience on the national stage ahead of next fall. The CCAA women’s soccer championships will take place on the Royals home soil in Coquitlam.
Laxton expects many of those players to return next year. Surrey forward Mikayla Hamilton told the Now-Leader previously that she’s eagerly anticipating the tournament next year.
“We gained a lot of experience and we know where we stand against the top teams,” said Laxton.
“That experience was really crucial for the rookies,” he said. “Six or seven of them hadn’t gone before. They got the experience I wanted them to get.”
After three straight years in nationals with an opportunity to host the event next year, Laxton had lots of positives to take away from the season.
“The message to the girls was just how proud we were of the season,” he said. “We’ve proven that we belong at this level. They did a great job of representing us, the school and B.C.”