New dawn for Highlanders

VICTORIA 2

KAMLOOPS 2

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There was a number in the Bob Fosse film All That Jazz about “everything old being new again.”

That might be the theme song for the Victoria Highlanders, who kicked off their new era in the Pacific Coast Soccer League with a 2-2 opening-game draw against Kamloops before about 500 fans at Royal Athletic Park.

The Highlanders are playing in the PCSL after six seasons in the Premier Development League, which is considered the highest amateur development level in North America.

Yet this is actually the 22nd consecutive season for a Victoria team in the PCSL, following a 21-year run by Victoria United that ended last year with the team folding after the 2014 season. The United run included six PCSL regular-season titles, seven PCSL Challenge Cup playoff championships and four John F. Kennedy Cup championships, the latter donated by the family of the late U.S. president for the amateur soccer championship of B.C., Washington and Oregon.

It was competition from the Highlanders in the PDL that hurried the demise of Victoria United in the PCSL. Ironically, the Highlanders have now entered the PCSL under new ownership after former owner Alex Campbell Jr. folded operations in the PDL during the off-season.

Got all that?

What remains a constant, however, is the need for a high level of summer soccer. Take, for instance, several of the young Highlanders, including a trio of players from the B.C. high school-champion St. Michaels University School Blue Jags. Callum Montgomery has been recruited to play for NCAA No. 8 UNC-Charlotte in the fall. Brian Im is headed to the University of the Pacific Tigers, also an NCAA Div. 1 team, and Kieran Large to UBC-Okanagan of the CIS.

“The university game is quick and very skilled and features older players [than in high school], and this [summer soccer in the PCSL] helps push us to that next level,” said Large, also an aspiring actor.

Large proved a quick learner Saturday, helping instigate Victoria’s tying goal in the 79th minute after Kamloops had stolen a 2-1 second-half lead through Peter Loncar and Keenan Wallace. The ball went from Large to Adam Ravenhill, who passed it to Derek deGroot. The Claremont grad, who played in the CIS for the University of Alberta Golden Bears, pivoted around the ball and sent it to the low far corner to earn the Highlanders the opening-night draw.

“We’re still learning to play together and starting to jell as a team,” said deGroot, who came into the game as a sub.

Dominic Colantonio had given Victoria the 1-0 lead at 45 minutes.

Those back-back-to-back weekend Canada West games with the Golden Bears will hold deGroot in good stead as the Highlanders return to the RAP pitch today for a PCSL game at noon against Abbotsford.

Highlanders coach Dave Dew said the roster is not yet set, with four players from Cowichan FC expected today after their loss Saturday on penalty kicks in Burnaby in the Province Cup semifinals.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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