Photo by Don Fennell
When the Graduates reflect on their victory in the 2018 Don Taylor League Cup, many years from now, they’ll no doubt view it as a cherished memory.
Just as it is for the individual for whom the Richmond Adult Soccer Association’s most prestigious trophy is named.
Taylor and the boys still get together three or four times a year to reminisce about the day of old, and the domination they enjoyed wearing the jersey of the Richmond Sounders a decade and more ago. That includes a set date each spring to watch the Masters golf tournament.
Today, they rejoice as much in the journey itself as the countless achievements along the way.
For the Graduates though, there are more pressing priorities.
The 3-1 result over West Coast FC, during the annual Soccer Sunday celebration at Minoru Park, vaulted the Richmond Adult Soccer Association side into the Provincial Cup tournament in mid-April.
“We’ve seen a lot of maturing in the Grads since they first came in the league,” said league president Steve Valenzuela. “The first couple of years you could see the youth in them, but I think they’ve matured well and, at the same time, brought in quality players graduating out of (Richmond FC) youth to support the team.”
Valenzuela is excited at the Grads’ prospects at the Provincial Cup. It will be the team’s second appearance in the tournament.
Poised to finish third in the First Division regular-season table, this has arguably been the Grads’ best-ever since. Since debuting in 2010, the club has steadily climbed to this level.
A 6-0 semifinal win over perennial powerhouse Richmond All Blacks assured the Grads of their place in the League Cup final on Soccer Sunday, an annual event that showcases the Richmond Adult Soccer Association.
Winning the Don Taylor League Cup is considered a monumental achievement in the Richmond Adult Soccer Association. The season-long tournament debuted in 1968. Each winter campaign, member clubs engage in a bracket-style single knockout with teams randomly drawn to determine who plays who.
Taylor himself won the League Cup 10 times. He was also the league’s longest-serving president, occupying the board position from 1979 through 2004.
Valenzuela said despite some concerns with the weather late in the season, the 2017-18 campaign has been one of the best in the league’s long history.
“We had a very competitive season,” he explained. “Going forward, I encourage the teams to continue to strengthen themselves.”
While snow cancelled this year’s planned all-star game with Burnaby, Valenzuela said he anticipates that exchange will resume again next season.
“We’d not only like to hold it again, but expand it around Thanksgiving weekend,” he said. “Our intention would be to also have games for the Second Division and Masters Division.”