Mairi Horth considers soccer her getaway.
And that getaway sure seems to be agreeing with her. The 18-year-old from Ladysmith just completed her first year of university soccer with the UBC Okanagan Heat, winning a silver medal at the provincials and being named a Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) all-star.
“Impactful is what Mairi has been as a first year player for UBC Okanagan,” an article on the UBC Okanagan (UBCO) website states. “Horth has excelled as both a central midfielder and also up front, doing a fantastic job in both spots. With her tremendous work ethic, speed and great individual skills, she has caused difficulties for opposing teams as she takes them on one versus one on the wings. Her hard work pays off as she sets up her teammates for goals — many of them late in the game, salvaging a win or a tie.”
Horth, who grew up in Ladysmith and graduated from Brentwood College School, has been playing soccer since she was little.
“I remember being tiny, playing when you’re like five and the long T-shirts, oranges at half-time,” she laughed.
Growing up, Horth played many other sports, including volleyball, basketball, track and field, and cross country running.
She always loved soccer, playing school soccer at Brentwood, house league soccer in Ladysmith, rep soccer in Nanaimo, metro league in Nanaimo and Victoria and Super Y summer league.
“I guess when I’m out there, it is the only thing there,” she said. “I don’t really think of anything else; it’s kind of like a getaway for me. I just love playing. It’s the only sport I haven’t gotten bored of.”
Horth says she always wanted to play university soccer.
“I think I always wanted to keep going with it and see where it would take me,” she said. “For a bit, I really wanted to go to the States to play soccer.”
As high school graduation neared, Horth applied to the nursing programs at UBCO, which is in Kelowna, and the University of Victoria (UVic).
“I didn’t think I would get into UBCO because I didn’t hear back until June; it was really late compared to February or whatever it was for UVic, so I just assumed I didn’t get in,” she said. “I went there knowing nothing about the school or the soccer team. It was kind of out of the blue I guess, but I think it was a better fit for me to leave the Island and get out of my comfort zone a bit.”
Horth says she loved her first year at UBCO.
“The team was great,” she said. “It was a really good fit. It’s a small university, which I think is better for me.”
The Heat finished second in the league and won silver at the PACWEST Provincial Championships. Horth played in all 14 regular season games, scoring two goals, and played in both Provincial Championship games.
Horth says the team was very welcoming, and she has noticed a difference in the level of play in university.
“They couldn’t have been any nicer, and the coaching staff is fantastic too,” she said. “It’s a lot faster than metro and Super Y. I like to be challenged, so it’s good for me.”
While at university, Horth’s goals are to complete her nursing degree without complications and keep improving on the field.
“For soccer, I would like to try to get all-star again,” she said. “Hopefully, score a lot more goals this year, but other than that, working hard and just keep improving.”
This summer, Horth is playing with the Mid-Isle Highlanders FC in the Pacific Coast Soccer League.
“I really like it,” she said. “The girls are really fun, and the coaches are awesome.”
Horth’s father Gord is proud to see his daughter move up to the next level.
“At the end of the day, what you’re happy to see is they’re playing a game they enjoyed playing as a youth, and they’re excelling,” he said.
He says it’s great for Mairi to be able to come back to the Island in the off-season and play high-level soccer with girls she has played with or against for years.
“It’s nice because as much as the sport is important, it’s the friendships and the associations you make,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about playing sports; you have something in common. They can travel afar, and sport is such a universal door to friendship. It also teaches a healthy lifestyle. I think it teaches some great lessons.”
Gord says Mairi was always a good athlete, and she was a good Highland dancer when she was young.
“She could have been a good runner, but I think she really likes the team sports,” he said. “She’s very competitive; they all are at this level. It’s fantastic that there’s an avenue for them. They didn’t have women’s soccer when I was growing up, so I think it’s fantastic there are opportunities for them, and the Pacific Coast Soccer League is a great league.”