Two Maple Ridge soccer players will be testing themselves against some of North America’s top collegiate players this fall after being invited to play on the Simon Fraser University team.
Kai Vockeroth and Brody Thomas, both 18, are part of five new recruits to join the school squad, which competes in NCAA Division II.
The pair, who are close friends, have known each other since they were eight-years-old and had just began playing the game.
“We both played on a team during my second year called The Sharks,” said Vockeroth, “And we scored quite a lot of goals,” he added, chuckling.
Thomas has continued to run up tallies. The 6’2″ striker is the top goal scorer for Langley United in the Vancouver Metro Soccer League’s U21 division.
Kevin Mahal, who coached the two footballers when they played for Thomas Haney Secondary School was quick to point out the talented offensive player’s strengths.
“He would bring his best games during our playoffs,” he said, “This was the first team that I had where we went to the [provincial championships] and Brody was our go-to guy up front. He would finish the job and give us the chance to get through to the next round.”
Vockeroth plays a slightly less flashy position in the midfield for Croatia SC in the Premier Division of the Vancouver Metro Soccer League but he captained the high school team, so held a fair amount of responsibility for keeping the squad on task and motivated.
“He was very skilled with an excellent touch on the ball,” Mahal said, “And he had great vision.”
The coach said both players were very smart.
“The guys were strong cognitive players with a good mental mindset, so when tough times were ahead they could make it through.”
Many challenges wait the athletes in the year ahead but Vockeroth and Thomas are looking forward to the test.
“It’s a whole other ball game,” said Thomas, “It’s not like a club team. These guys are hand-picked to play on these teams.
“They’ve got more accesss to resources,” he added, “They have trainers, access to physio and coaching at all times. There will be guys who are 23, who have been in the program for four years, who have had that access, so it’ll be completely different.”
Vockeroth said the age difference might be a factor but he is not too concerned.
“The whole physical aspect will be kind of challenging… but we’re both good technically, so it’ll be fine.”
They are both excited to back on the same team.
“Playing with your club team is fun but getting to play with your buddies is a completely different thing,” said Thomas, “It’s such an enjoyable experience to be able to go out and participate in these huge tournaments.
“It’s different when you’re playing for your school too. It’s a little bit more…”
“I dont’ want to say there’s more on the line,” Vockeroth began.
“You have a little bit more pride,” his friend finished.