On Point: Jasmin Dhanda writes herself into UBC Thunderbirds and Canada West history

On Point: Jasmin Dhanda writes herself into UBC Thunderbirds and Canada West history

Jasmin Dhanda wrote herself into the history books on Friday evening at Thunderbird Stadium.

It’s been five years in the making, but after 43 goals and 21 assists, Dhanda became the all-time leading points scorer in both UBC Thunderbirds and Canada West women’s soccer history.

Dhanda’s opening goal for UBC in their 3-0 win over UFV Cascades took her to a career total of 64 points, moving her one point ahead of the previous record holder, fellow Thunderbird Janine Frazao.

Starting the season 19 points behind Frazao, it’s been a steady build towards this moment for the 22-year-old striker. Dhanda had equalled the record with UBC’s third goal in last Sunday’s 3-3 draw with Mount Royal in Calgary. That set up the chance for her to beat it on home turf in the penultimate game of the season.

If the occasion and the record had been praying on her mind, it certainly didn’t show, and it only took Dhanda 36 seconds to make history.

“It’s super exciting,” Dhanda told AFTN after breaking Frazao’s record in Friday’s match. “I haven’t really thought of it much, but just knowing when I scored that goal that a few teammates came up and were like ‘you just broke the record’., it was super exciting.

“I did think of it coming in to the match, because a few people had brought it up to me, but it’s not always the first thing on my mind. The first thing is making playoffs, getting in to the nationals. That’s the first thing on my mind, but I did think about it a little bit.”

Frazao’s record had stood for four years. She set it in 2013, her senior season with the Thunderbirds. That year a young rookie joined the Thunderbirds from Vancouver Whitecaps Girls Elite program. Jasmin Dhanda.

That record breaking season was the only one the pair played alongside each other. Fittingly, for two players whose individual careers would have the almost same upward trajectory, they both scored five goals that season.

Fast forward five years and Dhanda is the leader on the team, and not just in terms of goals. Dhanda has previously said that Frazao took her under her wing in her rookie season. Now she is the player the young ones are looking up to, asking for advice, and hoping to mirror.

Dhanda set her record on Seniors night at Thunderbird Stadium, honouring herself and the four other UBC stalwarts (Jasmine Mander, Marlee Maracle, Brienna Shaw, and Aman Shergill) will be moving on at the end of this season. It’s been a whirlwind five years for her, and feels like it was only yesterday that she joined the program.

“It’s gone by so fast,” Dhanda told us. “Just seeing our alumni here, I remember when it was their seniors night. I can’t believe these five years just flew by.

“We haven’t been doing well the last few games but because it was a home game, with a lot of people out there supporting us, it’s a lot more exciting when your family is out there watching you.”

It’s been a great season all round for Dhanda. One she came into hungry for success, as she looks to bow out with a bang.

After being blanked in the opening game of the season in Victoria, Dhanda went on a tear, scoring 11 goals in the next seven straight matches. That included a four goal haul in UBC’s 6-0 thumping of Thompson Rivers last month. She’s only failed to score in three games this year.

And after a slow start last season, where she failed to find the back of the net in her first five matches, that was one of Dhanda’s key targets in her senior season – to come out of the traps flying.

“Last year I struggled with finishing in the first few games,” Dhanda told us. “It was nice to have that [early scoring]. It’s helped to give me momentum going into the playoffs.”

UBC head coach Jesse Symons already knew Dhanda well from coaching her at the Whitecaps, and the hunger, play, and leadership that she brings is an absolute delight for him.

“She’s just a handful up front,” Symons told AFTN. “Dhanda came in with the mindset of wanting to play every minute of every game this year. She told me she wants to play, she wants to score goals, and really influence the games. She shown that she can do that and I don’t think she’s going to stop.”

Dhanda came to UBC in 2013 after a successful youth career with the Whitecaps and in the Surrey United system, joining the Thunderbirds alongside Shergill and Mander.

The Whitecaps Girls Elite team, coached by Symons, were coming off a banner 2012/13 season, winning provincial, national, and international titles, including a Metro Women’s Soccer League double and a Pacific Coastal Soccer League treble.

Dhanda left with a slew of winners medals and memories, and she looks back on her time with the Whitecaps with a lot of fondness.

“That was probably the best experience of my life,” Dhanda told us. “Out of all the teams I played on, the Whitecaps are probably my favourite. We were a great team. It was a lot of girls I’d played with since I was 10 years old, so we had a great group. It wasn’t just on the field, but off the field we made some friendships. There was a lot of memories there.”

Those friendships, and the understandings they create on the football pitch have been very clear to see this season with this UBC team, especially up front between Dhanda, and fellow senior, and ‘Caps teammate, Shergill.

The pair of them lead the team in goals and assists and are the only two UBC players to have started all 13 matches this season. The Thunderbirds suffered their only two losses of the season in two of the three matches Dhanda hasn’t scored in this year. The other was a draw.

Shergill leads the team with eight assists, and grabbed two goals in Friday night’s win over UFV, taking her tally to eight of those for the season as well. Their link up play has been excellent this season, with an almost telepathic understanding of where the other will be for through balls, and Dhanda is quick to praise her friend for her part in her record breaking success.

“She’s a strong player,” Dhanda says of Shergill. “We’ve been playing high level soccer together for a long time, so it definitely does make an impact when you’ve been playing together for so long. She’s a good player. She understands the striker, with the moves, the runs and stuff. That’s why she’s been successful as well.”

UBC has given Dhanda a string of fresh memories, the pinnacle of which, points record aside, was the 2015 National Championship win on home turf.

An all-BC final, the Thunderbirds won 3-0 against Trinity Western Spartans. Dhanda grabbed an assist in the final and was named the tournament’s MVP.

It was a fantastic occasion and one that will long live in the memory of Dhanda.

“Soccer-wise, on the field, that was definitely one of my best experiences,” Dhanda says. “That feeling, I can’t even put it into words.”

UBC went on to make last year’s national championship game, losing in the final to Laval on a late heartbreaker. Can the Thunderbirds made it three national championship games in a row? Dhanda feels UBC certainly have the squad to do so.

“We’ve had a lot of good players coming in to our starting 11,” Dhanda told us. “We have girls coming off the bench who are strong and can fulfil those roles. That’s what’s given us success this year.

“We have a lot of strong players. On paper, these are probably some of the best players in all of U Sports. We have a lot of potential to make it to nationals.”

And it would certainly be a great ending to a great college career for Dhanda if she can bring home her second national title.

It’s been exciting watching Jasmin Dhanda these past few years up at UBC. She’s a real, natural talent. Some coaches we’ve spoken to believe she has all the skills and attributes to be a Canadian national team player. Whilst with the Whitecaps she played at U17 level for Canada and played at the 2012 U17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan.

The trouble is, of course, professional opportunities in the women’s game are non existent right now in Canada. If a talented female player wants to pursue a pro career, she would need to either head to the US to play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) or move overseas.

That’s not an option many want to entertain. Dhanda is one of them, and as things stand, U Sports looks like being the highest level we’ll see the talented striker play in.

“As of right now, this is as far as I want to go,” Dhanda told us. “I want to focus on my school and get my Masters after I graduate.”

But never say never. The murmurs about a Vancouver Whitecaps NWSL team are still strong, perhaps even bolstered by the demise of WFC2 and a gaping hole in the locker rooms at the ‘Caps new training facility.

If there was a Whitecaps women’s team again, and the circumstances were right for her to play and study her Masters in physio, then Dhanda wouldn’t rule out pulling on a ‘Caps jersey once more.

“If it was something that was local here, and I could pursue my career and stuff as well, that would probably be a different story,” Dhanda mused. “I know girls who have gone really far away to play soccer, but that’s not really on my mind right now.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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