The last match Richmond Red Hot Selects played in the summer of 2012 they won, capping their youth soccer journey with a 2-1 victory over Kamloops Blaze in the Provincial A Cup under-18 girls' final.
Two years later, six members of that team reunited to form the nucleus of Team Caribbean at the 35th annual Nations Cup in Richmond. And true to form they again emerged victorious, topping Team Italy 3-1 in the women's final Sunday afternoon at Hugh Boyd Park.
"It was so much fun playing with my old teammates again," said Summer Clarke, whose breakaway speed was instrumental in the Caribbean ending a title reign which had been shared between Ireland and Canada since the women's division was introduced a decade ago.
Clarke, the 18-year-old Richmond resident who is widely regarded as one of the best sophomore players in college soccer at Louisiana State University, said playing in the Nations Cup, which featured some older, more experienced players, may have actually been more challenging than university soccer.
One of the six former Selects, Brenda Murillo's header-the first of her soccer career-completed the scoring against Italy.
"Being able to play with everyone again was the best feeling ever. It's indescribable," said a smiling Murillo after the game.
Summer's dad, Clive Clarke, coached the Caribbean side. He said as a former player in the Nations Cup, it was his dream to see a women's division created. To guide this team, many of whom he coached in youth soccer, to victory was "awesome."
"Our strategy was to play tight defensively and attack with our speed," said Clive. "Alyssa Graeme-a deserving recipient of tournament MVP honours-was sensational in the midfield and the goal she scored to open the scoring against India (which helped lift Caribbean into the final) was fantastic."
Graeme, who is anxious to resume her college career at Langara in September, was surprised and honored by her selection as tournament MVP.
"It was unexpected to hear the compliments for my consistent playing, but I have high expectations for myself," she said. "I thought I played well enough, but of course everyone thinks they can always play better."
Graeme was equally modest in describing her spectacular goal in a 2-1 win by Caribbean over India Sunday morning.
"I just found myself in the right place at the right time, when Brenda (Murillo) happened to look up and see me. I just went for it (kicking a booming shot into the corner of the upper half of the net). It worked out," she said.
Clive also praised the play of recent R.A. McMath Secondary School grad Emma Partridge, who helped to anchor the outside of a strong back line.
In the midst of their celebration, the former Red Hot Selects on the Caribbean team experienced a particularly solemn moment dedicating their victory to Ashley Chen. The former Select passed away from a rare form of cancer in February.