Wider Horizons

Four Kodiaks join Team Yukon for Futsal Canadian Championship

Four members of the Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s futsal team had an athletic experience of a lifetime this last summer. Dan Okpala, Chris Anton, Ben Cull and Jaden Veluw showcased their talents on a national stage after being recruited to join Team Yukon at the 2022 Futsal Canadian Championships in Gatineau, Que., last April.

The event is Canada Soccer’s top-level club futsal championship, bringing together top teams from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Nunavut.

The four Kodiaks standouts were first noticed by Team Yukon after impressive performances during their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference futsal season. With the Yukon team in need of players to fill out their roster, the coaching staff reached out to Kodiaks head coach Sean Carey, who helped facilitate the connection.

Despite having to pay their own way to the competition, the group knew it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. They booked flights and met up with their Yukon teammates in Quebec.

“Our teammates were amazing. Right from the airport we just talked and hit it off right off the bat. Everyone on the team was raving about the viral goal Jaden scored against Ambrose,” says Okpala with a laugh.

The Kodiaks contingent had no trouble fitting in, making key contributions on the court while helping the underdog Team Yukon raise its national ranking with a fourth-place finish at the event.

Okpala had the crowd buzzing in the team’s first game, scoring an impressive hat trick in an 8-3 loss to defending champion Toronto Idolo – a performance that quickly made him a crowd favourite.

“I was going outside after the first game and they had a bunch of people wanting to take pictures with me,” says Okpala, still in amazement. “The crowd would even boo when I subbed off and would cheer so loud when we scored.”

Okpala was showcased on Canada Soccer’s official Instagram feed, right next to Canadian soccer legends like Alphonso Davies and Christine Sinclair. “I felt like a celebrity the whole weekend,” beams Okpala. “I would get back to the hotel and check my phone and have hundreds of notifications.”

Team Yukon would rebound with a 4-2 win over Pioneers FC (Man.) in their second game, with Anton and Cull each tallying markers in the victory. That performance earned them a spot in the bronze medal game, where they suffered a tough 1-nil defeat to Callies FC (Alberta) after conceding a late goal. Despite the heartbreaking final game, Okpala says it was a trip he’ll never forget.

“That tournament is one of the top football competitions in Canada and one of the highest levels of soccer I’ve got to play,” says Okpala. “They treated all the players exceptionally well. We were the underdogs, so everyone loved us there. It was an amazing experience.”

Excellence celebrated at annual KODI Awards

The Lethbridge College Kodiaks celebrated a successful return to play season with the annual KODI Awards in April. The event returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2019, giving Kodiaks teams, staff and college officials a chance to come together and celebrate the athletic and academic achievements of Kodiaks student-athletes. Awards were selected by members of the Kodiaks Athletics administration team and factored in the results of a public vote that had nearly 500 participants, setting a new KODIs record. The men’s indoor track team was named the Val and Flora Matteotti Kodiaks Team of the Year, capping a year that saw them earn a team bronze medal at ACAC Championships. Two soccer and futsal stars were also recognized with major awards, as Olivia DePasquale and Jaden Veluw were named Tim Tollestrup Leadership Student-Athletes of the Year. Ken McMurray earned the Electrical Solutions Inc. Kodiaks Coach of the Year award in his first full season as head coach of the women’s basketball program. Cross country and indoor track athlete Justin Fisher and basketball athlete Montana Berezay were named winners of the Calgary Flames Foundation Leadership Scholarships, recognizing student athletes who excel in leadership, community involvement and academics – the “unsung heroes” of Kodiaks Athletics. Read more about these and other award winners at gokodiaks.ca.

Student-athletes earn CCAA Academic All-Canadian Honours

Five Kodiaks earned Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Academic All-Canadian Honours for excellence in collegiate athletics and academics this year. Congratulations to Courtney Deemter (first year, Nursing, Calgary) women’s basketball; Megan Morrison (first year, General Studies, Medicine Hat), women’s soccer; Jaden Veluw (fifth year, Nursing, Lethbridge), men’s soccer; Benjamin Knight (fourth year, Open Studies, Manchester, England), men’s soccer; and Jamie Brown (fourth year, Exercise Science, Fort Macleod), women’s volleyball. These five student-athletes are among 230 from across Canada to have received the honour this year by epitomizing a commitment to academic success and athletic achievement.

Wider Horizons
Story by Jamin Heller
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