Anton Bucher (front row first from the left)

Anton Bucher (front row first from the left)

Smithers athletes make mark on Island soccer

Three athletes from Smithers are making their mark in soccer on Vancouver Island.

Three athletes from Smithers are making their mark in soccer on Vancouver Island.

Former Smithers residents Anton Bucher, Jayson Bradford and Oliver Schwuchow have found their groove playing with the Saanich Fusion FC with the Vancouver Island Soccer League recently.

Over the past two years, they helped capture the division one and two titles, as well as the Jackson Cup, one of the most prestigious soccer trophies on the Island.

This year, they hoisted the McGavin Cup and most recently, took home silver in a 4-3 over time loss to the Cowichan FC in the 100th Jackson Cup final.

But Bucher, Bradford and Schwuchow knew each other long before their success on the Island.

“I played on soccer teams growing up with these guys,” said Schwuchow, a defenceman who moved to Victoria a year and a half ago.

“We’ve been playing together in tournaments since most of us were still teenagers . . . we’ve probably seen playing together for close to six or seven years.”

They grew up playing in soccer tournaments in Prince George, the men’s league, indoor recreational soccer and even attending Smithers Secondary School together.

“You get to battle with guys you know. It’s like fighting for your home a little bit more, in a sense,” said Anton Bucher, a full back. “You put it all on the line for guys that you want to be putting it on the line for, instead of guys that you don’t know.”

The trio have created chemistry on the field that helped lift the team to a 10-5-3 record this season.

And it is a chemistry that only comes from years of playing along side each other.

“When you spend time playing with a similar group of players for a while, you get to know how they play, their style and you get to know what they’re thinking when they’re on the field,” said Bradford, a winger. “It’s easier to make quick decisions when you know a player is going to be in a certain position.”

Steph Steiner, head coach of the Saanich Fusion, said all three athletes come from a strong soccer culture and it shows during games.

“All three are very skillful, hard-working and talented players. They grew up with a good culture of soccer players up there in Smithers,” said Steiner, who originally met Bradford and Bucher during a soccer camp in town.

“They definitely work off each other really well. They do really well when they’re close together on the field and in practice, they tend to link up very well together.”

While they have the opportunity to take their skills to the next level, their mentality of hard work and perseverance that they learned in Smithers is something they still value today.

“When I was growing up, soccer was about fighting for the guy beside you, playing with your heart,  battling and winning tackles and playing as hard as you can . . . when I focus on that, I find it really helps me play to the best of my ability,” said Bucher.

Smithers’ Gabi Price and Paul Contumelias also play in the league.

And it is a chemistry that only comes from years of playing along side each other.

“When you spend time playing with a similar group of players for a while, you get to know how they play, their style and you get to know what they’re thinking when they’re on the field,” said Bradford, a winger. “It’s easier to make quick decisions when you know a player is going to be in a certain position.”

Steph Steiner, head coach of the Saanich Fusion, said all three athletes come from a strong soccer culture and it shows during games.

“All three are very skillful, hard-working and talented players. They grew up with a good culture of soccer players up there in Smithers,” said Steiner, who originally met Bradford and Bucher during a soccer camp in town.

“They definitely work off each other really well. They do really well when they’re close together on the field and in practice, they tend to link up very well together.”

While they have the opportunity to take their skills to the next level, their mentality of hard work and perseverance that they learned in Smithers is something they still value today.

“When I was growing up, soccer was about fighting for the guy beside you, playing with your heart,  battling and winning tackles and playing as hard as you can . . . when I focus on that, I find it really helps me play to the best of my ability,” said Bucher.

Smithers’ Gabi Price and Paul Contumelias also play in the league.