Former Brooks Secondary School teammates reunite at university

Thomson Rivers University rookie joins squad full of first-year players

A lot of things are new for Powell River’s Ricci Leitch. The 18-year-old graduate of Brooks Secondary School is living in a new town, enrolled in her first post-secondary classes and taking part in her first practices and games with Thomson Rivers University (TRU) Wolfpack women’s soccer team.

Leitch left Brooks as a leader on the senior girls’ soccer team. She said the highlight of her years at Brooks was being on the senior girls’ soccer team that won the 2015 AA provincial championship, the first time Brooks had ever made the finals.

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Leitch is in general studies at TRU and plans on applying for the school’s social work program. She committed to TRU’s soccer program because of the school’s athletic reputation and because she had friends, such as Powell River’s Natalie Verdeil, who were also attending.

According to Leitch, it is a year of unknowns for her and the Wolfpack.

“I came into it not knowing what to expect,” said Leitch. “It’s a brand new year for this team, and a new coach and new girls. I don’t think anybody really knew what to expect.”

Only about four or five players returned from last season, said Leitch, including Verdeil, who is entering her sophomore season with the club.

“I’m excited for us to grow as a team,” said Verdeil. “This year is a harder because we have 13 rookies. The years after this one will be really good but this will be a building year; it’ll be a harder year on us.”

The exhibition campaign was difficult for the Wolfpack, with all four games resulting in losses. “The first couple of games we played Capilano University and Quest University,” said Verdeil. “They were tough games because they were the first ones we’d played together as a team and with a new system. I think we came together as a team this weekend when we played University of Northern BC and MacEwan University.”

Leitch did not play in the game against MacEwan because of a slight pain but should be fine for the Wolfpacks’ season opener against University of Calgary Dinos. Kickoff for the 2016 Canada West Universities Athletic Association regular season is set for Saturday, September 10.

In its third Canada West Pacific Division season, the Wolfpack is undergoing a total rebuild after making it to the first round of the playoffs last season.

“There are quite a few Kamloops players who came from the same rep team, which is nice for them because they played together for the majority of their soccer careers, but for everyone else it’s a pretty new team,” said Verdeil.

Leitch and Verdeil are familiar with each other, having played together at Brooks. Leitch said that has made the transition from high school to university easier.

“It’s not that big of a deal being a rookie because there are so many of us; rookies make up the majority of the team,” said Leitch. “I don’t necessarily feel as much like a rookie as I would if we had an older team.”

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