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Burnaby forward draws big assist in Spartans run

Senior Seina Kashima is no passing fancy -- as she nears setting a new Canada West career assist mark

Studious, driven and yet still embracing the fun side of the game – Burnaby’s Seina Kashima is enjoying
her role with the Trinity Western University Spartans.

Being a major catalyst for the Canada West-leading women’s soccer team, Kashima works the give-and-go and drives a lot of the attack for the Spartans, who are on a current nine-game win streak.

It’s propelled the Langley-based program from No. 10 to fifth in the national rankings, and leapfrogged them to the top of the table in Canada West’s Pacific division. They can lock up a home playoff game with a win this weekend at UVic.

Being a fourth year veteran and a player whom others look to means there’s pressure, but the Burnaby South alumna is adjusting as a key leader on and off the pitch.

“It was definitely just knowing I had to perform well this year,” said Kashima of how she approached the season. “The way I play on the field will affect the way so many others play, and having younger players look up to you and knowing that if I’m choosing not to work, that will influence them.

“I have to embrace this (leadership) role and play completely for the team, really just focusing on the team and what they need.”

She’s certainly been a sparkplug, continuing on what she established over her previous three seasons with the Spartans. Having tasted various degrees of success over that span – including Canadian national finalists in her first season – Kashima doesn’t take anything for granted, and sees this squad as having incredible potential despite being on the young side.

This past weekend, Trinity Western steamrolled the universities of Regina and Saskatchewan by identical 5-0 scores, with Kashima registering four assists to give her eight on the season. It also put her career tally at 27 helpers, tying her with former Calgary Dinos’ Tessa Miller for the Canada West record.

Getting into the record books was a bit of a surprise for the soft-spoken future primary school teacher.

“I didn’t know (the record) existed until right before I broke the Trinity Western record,” she recalled. “Someone came up to me and said ‘Hey, you’re about to break a record.’ I was like, ‘Oh.’ It was kind of a shock, and I didn’t really know what to think about it.

“It’s been pretty cool, but it’s definitely a testament to each of my teammates who have been able to finish some passes that haven’t been all that great, and been able to make thing out of second place. It just speaks to how well the team’s been doing.”

She also has four goals, equalling her total from a standout freshman debut in 2014.

“Seina was our top recruit that year and basically stepped right in to a starting role,” noted head coach Graham Roxburgh, with Kashima earning Canada West Rookie of the Year and All-Canadian honours. “She has always had that threat, that potential and dangerous attacking mentality and basically it’s all coming together this year.”

Trinity Western struggled to start 2017, dropping two of its first three games. But since being shutout 3-0 by Calgary on Sept. 16, the Spartans have been on fire, outscoring the opposition 34-0 in nine straight wins – with last week’s victory over Saskatchewan the 200th of Roxburgh’s U Sports career.

The cold beginning for a program that has been a perennial Canada West challenger was an eye-opener.

“It was kind of like, ‘Who do we want to be?’ Did we want to be a team that just wilts under pressure in big games and sorts of disappears when we get scored on, or do we want to be a team that didn’t let anyone near our net and just continues to battle and fight for every point,” she said. “I think after Calgary we sort of all came together, it was like ‘this isn’t good enough, we need to be better.’ That was definitely our adversity.”

She credits her evolution as a leader to former teammates like Isabella Di Trocchio – a Burnaby North alumna – and Liverpool product Jessica King. Kashima’s also happy to be part of Trinity’s Burnaby connection, joined by junior Lauren Ehrhardt and sophomore Jessica Filippelli.

“We love it. We definitely call ourselves the girls over the bridge. It’s always a lot of fun to have other girls from Burnaby here, just be able to hang out, the places we like and things we like. It’s always fun having those girls here with me,” she said.

A South Burnaby metro product, with stops at various places including the Whitecaps elite program and Team B.C., Kashima draws a lot of satisfaction in helping get her teammates into a good scoring chance. The glorious game is built on the shoulders of 11 players on the field, and burying the ball in the opposition’s net is a major step in climbing the ranks.

“She’s learned to handle the attention and pressure really well,” said Roxburgh. “I’ve just really seen her grow in her team-first mentality, and that’s probably been the biggest reason why she’s been so successful this year.”

The end goal is a U Sports appearance that starts with a win. What will make it all the more special is sharing it with her fellow Spartans, said Kashima.

“Scoring goals is always a plus, but it’s also amazing to set up your teammates and help them finish it off and see their excitement when they put it in the net,” she said.