SOCCER: Inseparable Surrey trio sign with UFV Cascades

CLOVERDALE — Jasmine Mangat, Harman Billen and Gurneet Dhaliwal may not be biological sisters, but they have been on the same pitch since they were nine years old.

On Dec. 3, the best friends were announced as signings for the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades women’s soccer team.

The Surrey United teammates, who have played at the highest level of club soccer in B.C. in the Soccer Premier League and for the provincial team, are proud to go to a school with a great soccer program and a strong academic background.

Billen, a central midfielder, said the fact that her best friends are joining her at UFV “is just the icing on the cake.”

She said Rob Giesbrecht, head coach of the UFV team, was very keen on signing all three of them.

“Other coaches just emailed us and they didn’t bother watching our games or talking to us in person. He gave us a tour of the campus and what programs they had,” added the Fleetwood Park student.

Despite receiving other offers, Dhaliwal liked that the Cascades coach was willing to put the work in to signing all three of them.

“I think (Giesbrecht) showed more interest in us, which kind of led us into it, but there were other offers where we could’ve gone into them,” said the forward, from Tamanawis Secondary.

Mangat, who plays central defender, said she’s looking forward to starting another chapter of her career with her second family.

Seeing her soccer-playing friends is “always a thing I look forward to,” said the senior, from L.A. Matheson Secondary. “We can come together and goof around a little bit. They’re like my sisters, and obviously you’re excited when you see your sisters.”

Giesbrecht, who has coached against the trio, said each of them bring a different element to the team. Moving forward, he will look for them to help maintain the success the program has had.

“As you look to build your program and build upon the success you’re having, you need to add players that have the athletic ability as well as the character you want,” he said. “I sat down with each of these girls and I was impressed with who they were as people.”

The coach said the girls will have to work incredibly hard if they want to get any playing time on a team that finished fourth at the CIS national championships.

“I’m really excited that our program got deeper just by adding these talented players.

“Being a student-athlete isn’t easy. If they can go through it with a few friends, they can rely on each other to get through it,” added Giesbrecht.

Jeff Clarke, Surrey United’s technical director, said it’s clear how devoted all three of the players are to each other. Going to play for the same university will ease the transition they have to make, he added.

Clarke also said the three of them are built to succeed, as they have the attributes that fit perfectly with the positions they play.

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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