Vancouver’s Whitecaps FC Girls Elite soccer team is in good spirits heading to San Diego for the NCAA Final Four Showcase Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.
Sixteen players from grades 10 and 11 will be going to the tournament where the best four U.S. colleges will scout them, said coach Jesse Symons.
While the Grade 12 girls will not be going because they’ve already committed to universities, they have played an important mentoring role.
“The older players have the younger ones under their wing,” said Symons.
This will help them compete against the 50 teams participating in the event.
Vancouver players participating are from the Whitecaps development program, whose goal is to develop young players to compete nationally.
It does this by providing full time training for the most promising players, who are selected from community clubs throughout the province. The program is successful in promoting B.C.’s most talented players to the national ranks.
There are now 27 players in the program.
One challenge the team faces: its players are actually younger by a year than the teams they’ll be competing against, said Symons.
The elites will be facing off against top ranking U.S. teams.
The last game of the tournament will be against the state champions from Texas, who are considered the best American team.
The elite team’s training program has been intense. Since September, they’ve played five times a week.
They also play in the Metro Women’s Premier League which is “a very good level of competition for them,” said Symons.
Currently, the team ranks first in the league.
As for the talent of individual members, Symons won’t pick favourites.
“It’s a great mix of players, we can’t single one out,” he said.
The elite program has given a huge boost to promoting women’s soccer in the province and in Canada said Symons, adding that the national U-17 team has recently returned from playing in the World Cup in Azerbaijan.
For now, his players are feeling good.
“They’re excited. Anytime you get to go to San Diego in December,” he said, laughing.
Reported by Simone Pfeiffer