A work permit brought Oriol Torres to Canada, but soccer kept him here.
Torres, a native of Barcelona, Spain, was named the Pacific Western Athletic Association male soccer player of the week after helping the TRU WolfPack to two season-opening victories. The 24-year-old midfielder scored two goals in each of the WolfPack's home games - a 2-1 victory over the Capilano Blues on Saturday and Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Island Mariners - and assisted on one other.
Over two-plus seasons with the WolfPack, Torres has been asked on numerous occasions how he ended up here. It's kind of a long story, but it began with a work permit.
"I worked for a year, but my passion is (soccer)," said Torres, a big fan of his hometown Barcelona FC. "I kept playing with teams, and somehow I ended up in Kamloops. I was playing in the (Pacific Coast Soccer League) in the summer and the TRU coaches saw me. They gave me the opportunity."
The WolfPack is to hit the road to the Lower Mainland for a Saturday game with the Douglas Royals and a Sunday contest with the Kwantlen Eagles.
When Torres left home, he knew he wanted to go somewhere he had to speak English. He didn't want to go to the United Kingdom, which has a strong Spanish community, or the U.S., whose Mexican community also speaks Spanish. So he came to Canada.
"I couldn't speak any English, so it was a challenge at first," Torres said. "But I wanted to come to a country where I actually had to learn a language. It was between Australia and Canada . . . I chose Canada because my mother had been (in Saskatchewan) two or three years."
However it happened, the WolfPack certainly is glad Torres is here. His speed is an important asset for a team hoping to improve on its bronze-medal finish in 2012.
In his first two seasons with the WolfPack, Torres had three goals (2011) and five goals (2012) as he was content to be a set-up man.
"Oriol has always done really well for us, and was probably more of a set-up man before," said WolfPack co-head coach John Antulov. "He's been gaining confidence and taking advantage of the opportunities when he gets them."
Torres doesn't feel as though his play has changed much - he's doing the exact same thing he always has.
"To be honest, I just always work for the team," Torres said. "I don't care if I score or not, as long as the team does well. If we win the game, I don't even care if I score."
With that attitude, Torres will enjoy a nice career with the WolfPack, which is scheduled to join the CIS in 2014. He is enrolled in business administration, quite the change from when he first crossed the pond, when he was working landscaping to simply "survive."
In his past three conference games, including the 2012 provincial bronze-medal game, Torres has scored seven goals. He currently leads the conference in goals.
Not bad for a guy who didn't think he would be playing competitive soccer once he left Spain.
"I didn't expect anything - I just came here to work for a year," he said. "My situation changed suddenly. I didn't expect to play college or anything like that.
"Now that I'm here, I'm happy to help my team."
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TRU's Alanna Bekkering also was named player of the week on Wednesday.
Bekkering, last year's conference MVP, set up both goals in the WolfPack's 2-1 victory over the Blues on Saturday before scoring twice as TRU defeated the Mariners 3-1.
The fifth-year midfielder is a product of the South Kamloops Titans.
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Both WolfPack soccer teams are ranked in the top five nationally.
The men are fifth in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association rankings, with Ontario's Humber Hawks first and the Langara Falcons second. The Royals are ranked No. 11.
TRU's women are ranked No. 4, where they have been since finishing fourth at the CCAA championship in November. Quebec's Indiennes d'Ahuntsic are first. There are two other B.C. teams in the rankings - the UBC-Okanagan Heat is No. 10, with the Quest Kermodes No. 12.
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The WolfPack golf team is on the road again this weekend, but it will be a shorter trip.
TRU is off to Kelowna to play in the Heat's tournament, the second of the season. The tournament will be played at Okanagan Golf Club.
TRU finished sixth among men and third among women at the season-opening tournament in Nanaimo, and Brent Pound finished second in the individual men's competition.
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TRU's women's volleyball team is set to play three exhibition matches at a tournament in Burnaby on the weekend.
As part of a Friday-Saturday tournament at Simon Fraser University, the WolfPack is scheduled to play the Columbia Bible College Bearcats, the host Clan and the Vancouver Island Mariners.
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Hockey season is here for the WolfPack, which is headed to Langley for an exhibition game Saturday.
TRU is set to play the Trinity Western Spartans, another B.C. Intercollegiate League team, in its preseason opener.
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TRU's baseball team will open its fall exhibition season in Alberta on the weekend.
TRU has two games scheduled against the Calgary Dinos on Friday, and doubleheaders with the Okotoks Dawgs scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The WolfPack's alumni and 100-inning games are scheduled for Sept. 21 and 22 at NorBrock Stadium.