Nautsa’mawt’s improvments and League 1 BC takeaways

VANCOUVER, BC – The first week of the League 1 BC season is in the books, and there weren’t many goals to talk about through the first eight matches.

Playing doubleheaders with men’s and women’s teams as they did in the inaugural season, Harbourside FC made its debut in Nanaimo to over 1,000 fans, a League 1 BC record. Meanwhile, a short-staffed TSS Rovers men’s side proved they can compete with some of the best in a 0-0 draw with the new-look UBC Thunderbirds-based Nautsa’mawt FC.

With the first match week behind, The Third Sub looks back at the results that were.

Altitude and Rivers split results in Kamloops

Rivers FC

WOMEN’S: Rivers FC 1-2 Altitude FC

MEN’S: Rivers FC 2-1 Altitude FC

Altitude FC couldn’t quite get rolling to start their 2022 season, but the 2023 season is off to a quick start for the North Vancouver club. Visiting Kamloops’ Rivers FC on Sunday, they came away with a 2-1 victory on the back of goals from Avery Tulloch and Aurora Hughes-Goyette.

Hughes-Goyette, who is back for her second season with Altitude, comes off an AUS season with the University of New Brunswick Reds, where she scored once in 11 matches, primarily playing as a fullback. Meanwhile, Tulloch scored her first goal in over a year after failing to hit the back of the net in 15 matches with the SFU Red Leafs.

For the home side, Albanian international and 21-year-old Esi Lufo nodded home a set piece for the goal, giving Rivers the 1-0 lead at halftime before Altitude scored twice in the second half.

“It was the epitome of a game with two halves; I thought we were good in the first half; we came out probably unlucky a little bit to be only 1-0 up at halftime; I thought we created two or three really good chances,” Rivers head coach Mark Pennington said on Instagram.

“Second half, credit to Altitude, they came out, and they caused some problems, and I think we ran out of a little bit of gas, and we had a couple of errors at the back, and it’s cost us.”

On the men’s side, Rivers came away with the three points in a 2-1 win on their home turf. Featuring several players from the U SPORTS Championship-winning TRU Wolfpack, including Jan Pirretas, Dylan Hooper, Doemnico Comita, and Alessandro Comita, among others, they had enough to push them onwards to the win.

Alessandro Comita, in particular, started the match and brings invaluable insight to the league, having spent the 2022 inaugural League 1 BC season with the Whitecaps Academy before joining head coach John Antulov and the TRU men’s soccer program in the fall.

Finn Marshall scored both goals for Rivers, completing his brace after settling a loose ball off a corner and striking it into the low corner. Athos Di Siqueira scored a second-half penalty for Altitude.

“I’m super happy; the guys played really well. Especially the first half, the second half, it got a little bit tough when the wind was king of blowing, but the guys dealt with it well,” Antulov said post-match of a blustering Kamloops day. “

With no broadcasts of either match, it is challenging to decipher performances from particular players. Yet, Rivers will now look ahead to their next matches against the Whitecaps Academy in Vancouver on May 7.

Harbourside makes a promising debut in Nanaimo

Harbourside FC

WOMEN’S: Unity FC 2-1 Harbourside FC

MEN’S: Unity FC 1-1 Harbourside

Nanaimo’s Harbourside FC left their first week without a win on the pitch, but they were undoubtedly victors off the pitch, attracting the largest crowd in League 1 BC history with over 1,000 fans in attendance. Just a year after North Vancouver flocked to support altitude Nanaimo outdid their Horseshoe Bay counterparts. 

On a sunny Vancouver Island day, the Harbourside women, made up mainly of VIU Mariners players, fell 2-1 to Unity FC yet had promising spells in the league’s featured match of the week.

The TWU Spartans-based Unity side opened the scoring in the 36th minute with a strike from the top of the 18-yard box from Luciana Andrews before Harbourside eventually pushed back to enter halftime at 1-1. 

Shae Battie, of the VIU Mariners, struck home a loose ball in the box after an uncontrolled corner kick in first half stoppage time, giving the women’s side hope heading into the second half. 

The match remained level, as goalkeeper Emily Rowbotham held up strong play for the Nanaimo side, before bobbling a 66th-minute shot which resulted in a rebound and in turn the winning goal for Unity. 

Over on the men’s side, it was a moment of brilliance from Hussein Behery that highlighted the 1-1 draw. 

The UNBC Timberwolves forward controlled a ball on the sidelines from goalkeeper Callum Weir, before Behery sidestepped the Unity goalkeeper and slotted home in the 36th minute for the club’s first men’s goal. 

Making it even more brilliant, the goal came while Habrourside played with 10 men, after captain Matt Mehrassa was awarded a red card in the 17th minute. Unity found their tying goal in the second half, salvaging a point. 

“It’s very enjoyable,” Behery told NanaimoNewsNow. “We have a lot of people watching in the community, we went a man down and I feel like it’s a good reaction from us, we were pushing through.”

Unity is a re-tooled team on the men’s side this season, bringing in former CPL Draft pick Victory Shumbusho, who played 2022 with Varsity FC, while also adding former Varsity and current UBC winger Mihai Hodut to the roster. 

Although the Nanaimo club left the opening weekend still seeking their inaugural win, the point on the men’s side and positive performance from the women is tantalizing, particularly with the strong opening match attendance. 

Whitecaps benefit from own goals against Victoria

League 1 BC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

WOMEN’S: Whitecaps 2-0 Victoria Highlanders

MEN’S: Whitecaps 1-1 Victoria Highlanders

The defending League 1 BC women’s champions opened their 2023 campaign with a victory on Sunday, taking down the Victoria Highlanders with a 2-0 victory in a rare home match at Thunderbird Stadium. 

Although without most of the international players who played with Canada’s U20 Women’s National Team in Concacaf qualifiers last week, the Whitecaps youngsters continued to perform at a high level against university-level players. 

After a cagey start to the opening half hour with the Whitecaps largely controlling possession but not creating threats, the home side found the breakthrough as Ashley Roberts sent in a corner kick that resulted in a Highlanders own goal. 

As the youthful Whitecaps side continued to run the play, they worked themselves to several impressive chances, forcing Victoria goalkeeper Milena Ramirez into several five-alarm stops before Ava Jackson scored a 90th-minute goal to make it 2-0. 

Although the win over a Victoria team that struggled in 2022 may not scream impressive on paper, it showed the level the next generation of Whitecaps Academy players can get to, and helped the club claim three points ahead of their eldest players returning to action. 

On the men’s side, U SPORTS leading scorer Michael Henman started for Victoria but was forced off due to injury in the 30th minute. Henman, of the UNBC Timberwolves, ended his U SPORTS season with 19 goals in 15 games for the Prince George, BC-based program. 

League 1 BC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The Whitecaps took the initial lead with their own goal, similar to the women’s match, as Cody Gysbers bobbled the ball into his own goal amid a crowd. Yet, Victoria clawed back to 1-1 as Nick Park scored in the 88th minute. 

The men’s match didn’t have much tactical awareness from the other side, with classic direct play taking centre stage, supported by a lack of off-ball movement. It came down to holding Victoria wide on the pitch for Vancouver, which they did, but they couldn’t finish at a level high enough for the three points. 

Among the intriguing veteran additions to the Whitecaps men’s team in 2023 is Harvard Crimson centreback Nik White, who starred for TSS Rovers in their championship last season. Brought in not just for his defensive awareness, but his leadership, the League 1 BC champion looked right at home in the heart of defence.

Heading into Week 2, the Whitecaps turn their attention to matches against Rivers FC on Sunday, while the Highlanders return to matchplay a day earlier against TSS Rovers — rekindling their USL PDL rivalry from the days of the small-competition Juan de Fuca Plate. 

Nautsa’mawt FC grab four points off TSS Rovers

WOMEN’S: Nautsa’mawt FC 2-0 TSS Rovers

MEN’S: Nautsa’mawt FC 0-0 TSS Rovers

Nautsa’mawt FC came away from the weekend as the top club in League 1 BC’s Juan De Fuca Plate table, with the women’s side defeating the TSS Rovers 2-0 and the men earning a 0-0 draw against the same club.

League 1 BC

After rebranding from Varsity FC and undergoing an ownership change, the club marketed the games as their inaugural matches, as they built on a successful season in 2022, where both Varsity teams cracked the final day.

In the women’s match, it was a fast and threatening start from Nautsa’mawt, who struck the crossbar twice in the opening 30 minutes, as a high press pushed the TSS backline to their limits in the opening periods of the match.

Despite the early pressure and attacking opportunities, Nautsa’mawt weren’t able to beat TSS goalkeeper Mae Hobbenshield until the 70th minute, when a Nautsa’mawt midfielder pressured to win the ball back and set up Katalin Tolnai, who held off a Sofia Faremo before striking from the top of the box to beat Hobenshield.

For Tolnai, the League 1 BC scoring leader from 2022, it was an impressive strike but one that has become the norm since she began playing with the UBC Thunderbirds after a stint with the Hungarian youth national teams.

Meanwhile, the Rovers, who were missing several of their NCAA players, held strong for most of the match, as head coach Chelsey Hanneson’s style of play continued in the use of depth players. There’s no doubt the Rovers will look like a different side in the weeks to come and through the summer as they look to compete for a place in the playoffs.


“Going into this, one of the biggest messages in the group was, shorthanded or not, 11 players on the pitch, and every player needs to show up,” Hanneson told Michael McColl of AFTN. “Of the players that we had for this match, we had a plan, and they committed, and honestly, it was refreshing and exciting to see them battle together and gel together so quickly.”

On the men’s side, the rematch of the 2022 final came out to a scoreless draw, with many of the Rovers players missing the match due to commitments in the men’s provincial cup final with BB5 United.

Still, both sides had chances, with the Rovers beginning the first 15 minutes of the match with a pace similar to their veteran-heavy effort against Valour in the Canadian Championship, with their best chance coming from a long shot off the foot of Massud Habibluah, which dribbled just wide of the left post.

With the absences, several TSS players were forced to take on unfamiliar roles, with Shaya Zarjampour thriving as a centreback in his first league match with the club, having played as a midfielder with the Whitecaps Academy in the 2022 season.

Despite the out-of-position play and the absences, the Rovers didn’t allow Nautsa’mawt to create in midfield while holding possession in their own end and limiting attacking opportunities for the UBC-based club.

TSS had a late chance in the dying moments off a set piece but wasn’t able to connect, eventually settling for the 0-0 draw in head coach Darren Russcher’s first match as the main gaffer.

“We’re a little disappointed, and I felt like we could have gotten something a little bit more from this game; we had a couple of very good looks at goal,” Russcher said, having taken over League 1 BC coaching duties from Will Cromack this season. “[Today] felt a little different, I’m not going to lie, preparing for today… it was a little bit nerve-racking.”

Although Nautsa’mawt came away with four points in the overall table, it was a positive performance from both sides, given the circumstances. The rebranded finalists from last season proved their worth in their search for the 2023 titles.

With the opening week in the rearview, the Rovers look on to a weekend of matches against the Victoria Highlanders before the men face the CPL’s Pacific FC in the second round of the Canadian Championship. Meanwhile, Nautsa’mawt prepare to face Harbourside in their home openers.

(Title Image Credit: AFTN)

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