Abbotsford – Five University of the Fraser Valley soccer players found themselves in the limelight as Canada West handed out its awards for the 2018 conference season.
The Cascades men’s soccer team had four players honoured – centre back Tammer Byrne and forward Gurmaan Jhaj are first team all-stars, while centre back Sahib Sidhu and forward Andrew Peat are part of the all-rookie team.
On the women’s side, Cascades winger Jashan Sandhar has been recognized as an all-rookie teamer.
Byrne is the only player in UFV men’s soccer history to earn multiple Canada West all-star nods – this is his third, after being named a second-teamer in 2015 and a first-teamer in 2016.
The fifth-year centre back from Abbotsford, B.C. saved his best for last, helping the Cascades trim their goals-against from 31 last season to just 18 this fall. UFV’s 1.2 goals against per game is the third-best mark in Canada West.
“Tammer’s been a leader from the back for us, and he’s been a fantastic mentor to the rookie centre back beside him (Sidhu),” Lowndes said. “He’s led our defensive efforts as a team. We talked about needing to be better defensively this year, and he’s taken it upon himself to ensure that becomes reality. It’s an award that’s fully justified.”
The Cascades’ fourth-year forward from Aldergrove, B.C., was a scoring sensation this season. He was second in the conference in both goals (13) and game-winning goals (five), and ranked third overall in points (15).
Jhaj’s offensive output was unprecedented in Cascades history – he set new single-season records for both goals and points.
“He’s had a really good season,” Lowndes observed. “He’s made a position change (from holding midfielder) and taken on a different role, and he’s embraced it and flourished. It’s nice to see him get some recognition for all his hard work and his goal-scoring this season.”
Playing alongside Cascades captain Byrne, Sidhu played an instrumental role in helping the Cascades orchestrate an incredible defensive turnaround. The Surrey, B.C. product brought great size (6’3”) and athleticism to the roster, and excelled both with the ball at his feet and at winning balls in the air.
“He’s been fantastic,” Lowndes said. “It’s always tough when you come in as a first year, but from Day 1, he’s shown he can be a really good player at this level. He’s had an excellent rookie campaign, and I’m excited to see him take on more of a leadership role next season and continue to grow.”
The dynamic striker from Port Coquitlam, B.C. grew by leaps and bounds as the season progressed. Over his first seven games, Peat registered one goal; over his final seven games, he racked up four goals and three assists. He tied for 13th in Canada West for both goals and points.
“He’s scored some important goals for us,” Lowndes said, alluding to Peat’s injury-time winner in a 1-0 win over UNBC that clinched the Cascades’ playoff berth. “He’s had to deal with the transition from youth to university soccer, and it took him a little bit of time. But the second half of the season, he was fantastic. He’s pacey, he’s got power, he strikes a great ball, and the kid can finish. I’m pleased to see him recognized for those attacking qualities.”
Sandhar was an impactful presence from Day 1 for the Cascades, causing problems for opposing teams with her speed and playmaking ability down the right wing. She finished the year with a goal and four assists, the latter total tied for ninth in Canada West.
It’s the second straight year the Cascades women’s soccer team has had all-rookie representation, after Harneet Dadrao earned a nod in 2017.
“I’m very proud of her,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht said of Sandhar. “She came into our program kind of under the radar, after playing most for her youth career at the Metro level, yet she terrorized opposing outside backs throughout our season. Her ability to get past defenders is second to none, and she showed great mental and physical toughness by playing half the year with a fractured arm. She has an extremely bright future.”