Members of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s soccer team attended a Kamloops city council meeting Tuesday, receiving recognition for their hard-fought national championship victory in November.
The team beat the UBC Thunderbirds in a penalty kick shootout to capture the school’s first ever U Sports National Championship title, a win secured in front of a crowd of thousands of fans at Hillside Stadium — the host destination chosen for the 2022 championship event.
Curtis Atkinson, TRU’s director of athletics and recreation, told council on Tuesday they were proud to represent their institution and the Kamloops community.
“To be recognized in front of council today is a special honour, and quite unique for all of us. These guys really deserve a tremendous amount of credit under John’s leadership,” Atkinson said, referring to John Antulov, the team's head coach.
“We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished for this community. Our first U-Sports national championship at TRU — our first championship at this level — but it didn’t come without a lot of pressure. The immense pressure of hosting, knowing for three years we were going to host, and that amount of pressure on John, on the guys, to deliver on the big stage the way they did was incredible.”
Atkinson noted the importance of strong partnerships to pull off hosting duties for the championship event.
“We're forever grateful to the City of Kamloops,” Atkinson said, thanking council for its support of the Tournament Capital program.
“We showed once again why Kamloops is the premier hosting destination in the country. And your support of that program means a lot to us, and allows us to do these types of things, go out and bid on these championships.”
Atkinson further thanked staff for their work to help prepare the field at Hillside Stadium for hosting the tournament, especially after the field was “buried in snow” just days before the event.
“I was a little bit worried, but the City of Kamloops wasn't. And that was incredible to have that confidence from the first time the snow hit: ‘We got this, this is what we do, we will take care of you.’ And that really meant a lot to us,” he said, adding visiting teams and the U Sports national office were impressed with the playing surface.
Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson congratulated the team, presenting them with certificates, and acknowledging head coach Antulov’s “outstanding” work.
“It was just awesome to watch that game — it was very cold,” Hamer-Jackson said, adding he was impressed with the thousands of fans who came out to watch the game, even in freezing temperatures.
“After the game it was very heartwarming to watch Mr. Antulov cross the field looking for people up in the stands, and to see Dino [Bernardo, the team’s manager], he ran so fast and jumped so high that if it was me, I would have pulled my hamstring.”
Coun. Kelly Hall also thanked city staff for their part in helping to prepare for the championship event, and congratulated the team.
“I tip my hat to all you guys, because I know the sacrifice that you put in — not only this year, but the years of soccer that you've accomplished over the years to get to this,” Hall said.
“I understand a few of you guys have been fortunate enough to sign professional contracts. Good on you. So well done.”