College teammates Premji and Brooks bring winning mentality to Whitecaps FC women

Duo won '09 title with North Carolina

So far this season, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC women’s squad have gotten off to a winning start. Winning, though, is nothing new for Ranee Premji and Amber Brooks.

As members of the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team, they are part of one of the greatest dynasties in all of women’s sports. The Tar Heels have won 20 NCAA championships in 28 seasons and have dominated their conference, winning 20 of 22 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships, a consistent supremacy that is almost unheard of in the sports world.

Counterparts on the field and close friends off of it, this summer sees the duo patrolling the midfield for Whitecaps FC. The pair continue their chase for the club's third United Soccer Leagues W-League title in the last eight years in Southern California tonight against Los Angeles Strikers (7 p.m. PT kickoff).

“Being a part of Whitecaps FC last year was a great decision because the training and coaching helped with my development,” said Premji. “Going into my sophomore year of college, I was more prepared because of the experience I had gained.”

Premji returns for her second season with Whitecaps FC after appearing in 24 games during her sophomore year with the Tar Heels. In the 2010 NCAA season, she recorded one goal and three assists while becoming an integral part of UNC's midfield corps. During her two NCAA seasons, Premji has made a total of 38 appearances for nine points, as well as helping the Tar Heels to their 20th NCAA title in 2009.

Legendary Tar Heels head coach Anson Dorrance, who has been at the helm for all 20 of the school’s national championships, acknowledges the improvements in Premji’s game after suiting up for Whitecaps FC last summer. “Ranee's improved play after spending a summer with Whitecaps FC in 2010 was easily visible when she returned to UNC last fall. So recommending Amber to join her at the Whitecaps was very easy for me.”

“This past season at UNC, Amber and I developed a great relationship in the midfield. Our strengths complement each other perfectly. She’s more aggressive and wins the head balls while I like the ball at my feet,” said Premji. “We can continue to develop this relationship while playing for Whitecaps FC, which can hopefully contribute to winning another national championship for the Tar Heels.”

Brooks also recognizes the importance of her on-field chemistry with Premji, both for the success of Whitecaps FC as well as their Tar Heels squad. “One of the reasons I wanted to play for Whitecaps FC this summer is not only because Ranee talked so highly of her experience with the team and coaching staff last summer, but also because it gave us the opportunity to continue training and playing together in hopes of leading our team to a national championship this upcoming season,” remarked Brooks.

Dorrance commends Whitecaps FC for their focus on player development, noting that what he “appreciates about the Whitecaps is their understanding that the summer for a collegiate player is about their individual improvement and (head coach) Hubert Busby Jr. was willing to work with Ranee and now Amber to make sure that is what those months are for.”

Brooks will be looking to make her mark in her rookie season with the ‘Caps. She started all 24 of her appearances with UNC this past NCAA season, recording seven goals and two assists for a total of 16 points. The New Hope, Pennsylvania, native made 27 appearances in 2009 with 15 starts and three assists in helping the Tar Heels to the NCAA title. So far, Brooks has enjoyed her time on the west coast, crediting the professionalism of the ‘Caps in making her arrival an easy one.  

“The city is beautiful and the coaching staff, support staff, and all the players have been more than welcoming and professional,” said Brooks. “Hubert's coaching philosophy and style of play is similar to our coach at UNC, Anson Dorrance, who was very supportive of our decision to play for Vancouver. He assured us that being around the high-level coaches and players in Vancouver would be best for our player development this summer.”   

With a wealth of winning experience, Premji and Brooks add an element of youthful energy and desire to a ‘Caps squad looking to return to the W-League Final Four. Not used to losing, these two midfielders will surely do everything they can to make sure they keep to their winning ways, as the ‘Caps aim to create a dynasty of their own.