The boys from L.A. Matheson Secondary chose not to do things the easy way.
After finishing the regular season with a 6-2 record, they needed wins in their last two games to qualify for provincials.
In that first game, they fell down 2-0 early to Semiahmoo, and their provincial dreams were in serious jeopardy.
Avi Kumar came out in the second-half with goal to cut the lead in half. Then, Arjun Hothi scored on a free kick from the 18-yard box to tie the game up at two in the final two minutes.
“In overtime we had the pressure and the chances, but we just couldn’t finish. It was tough,” said Hothi.
After extra time solved nothing, the balance of their season was hinging on a shootout. Goalie Kevin Saggu stopped the first two shots he faced in the shootout, which propelled L.A. Matheson to victory.
Their final game to clinch a spot in provincials also went into the shootout after a scoreless tie against Queen Elizabeth Secondary.
“It’s always a grind when we play Q.E.,” said Hothi. “Both teams were afraid to make a mistake in that game.”
Saggu came up clutch again in the shootout, saving all except for one shot.
It took a gritty come from behind victory and two shootouts, but the boys AAA soccer team was able to clinch a spot in this year’s provincial soccer tournament.
This has easily been one of the craziest teams we’ve been a part of,” said Hothi to the Now-Leader while with Kumar, his teammate since grade eight.
L.A. Matheson’s inclusion in the provincial tournament is impressive considering the amount of soccer talent floating around Surrey.
Despite his athletic commitments, Hothi is still able to be a leader on an L.A. Matheson club on the upswing.
Hothi and Kumar, along with teammate Jasdeep Hari, have been along for a wild couple of years playing soccer at L.A. Matheson.
While it’s wild now, it wasn’t always that way for L.A. Matheson, according to Hothi and Kumar.
“Matheson used to be a school with not much going for them in sports,” said Hothi.
Hothi and Kumar reflect back to when they were playing soccer for L.A. Matheson back in grade nine. The team played to a middling 3-2-3 record that season, before a memorable playoff run injected some much-needed adrenaline back into the school.
They won a couple of intense shootout games in the playoffs, before facing off against Princess Margaret Secondary on the road in the junior boys soccer final.
“At least 100-150 showed up for that game,” said Hothi. “That game went the distance in a 50/50 battle, both sides got chances, we even missed a breakaway in overtime.
“We took that game to a shootout as well. It was dark. People had to turn the lights on from their cars so we could see.”
L.A. Matheson ended up winning, giving the school their first soccer banner in some time.
“The whole attitude of our soccer team changed the school,” said Kumar. “It was a domino effect. Our title created progression across all sports programs at Matheson.”
The boys that won the title in 2014 have now grown together and look to take one last swing at provincial supremacy in B.C. high school soccer.
L.A. Matheson did make their first trip to provincials last year.
“Last year we clinched provincials the easy way,” said Kumar.
Provincials for them ended with a 2-1 loss to Enver Creek. L.A. Matheson finished sixth out of 16 AAA teams in B.C.
“It was upsetting for us,” said Hothi.
“We had the capabilities last year,” said Kumar. “We had a player that won nationals before, another player that’s now with the UBC Thunderbirds.”
Even though they lack some of that elite talent heading into provincials, the team believes they have what it takes to improve upon last years performance in provincials.
“This year, we’re going for it all,” said Hothi. “It’s going to be very competitive, every team wants to win provincials.”
L.A. Matheson was one of four teams from Surrey to qualify for soccer provincials. Teams from Fleetwood Park, Panorama Ridge and Enver Creek also qualified.
Fleetwood Park comes into the tournament as the best all around team from Surrey on paper. They scored 33 goals during the season, and they allowed only four goals in eight games.
L.A. Matheson was in a tough division with both Fleetwood Park and Enver Creek. Fleetwood Park was tops in the West Zone Division, and Enver Creek creeped into the playoffs with one less point than L.A. Matheson.