They won’t be staying at the Four Seasons Hotel, but rather crashing on foamies on a classroom floor. But for the girls representing the Thompson Okanagan in U15 soccer at the Abbotsford B.C. Summer Games, uncomfortable accommodation is no big deal because it’s all about the soccer.
Approximately 90 players from Kamloops through to Penticton were invited to tryout for the 18-player roster going to the Games starting today. Jayden Strachan, Kelsey Carriere, Danica Ariano and Mariya Blades from Vernon made the cut.
“I found out four weeks ago and my mom texted me,” said midfield and fullback Strachan, who is starting Grade 10 at Kalamalka Secondary School. “I remember I had to read it two or three times. The tryouts were hard and a lot of girls were trying to get on the team. The pool of girls was very talented and it’s an honour to be picked alongside my now teammates.”
Ariano, a Grade 10 Seaton student, competes in cross country skiing and biathlon in the winter.
She enjoys playing centre midfield where she can set up plays and give direction on the field.
“We are a close team so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them (at the Summer Games) and looking forward to playing against a higher level to test ourselves against these teams that we haven’t played before,” said Ariano.
Blades, a forward going into Grade 10 at VSS, has only played soccer for two years.
Her passion for the game grew after she started playing for fun with her friends at school.
Blades says her speed, aggression and love for the game make her an asset to the team. She used to Irish dance.
“I just focus on soccer because I want to make a future out of it and get a scholarship,” said Blades.
The team practiced twice a week in Vernon or Kelowna but their lack of time playing together isn’t a concern.
“Actually a lot of us just played in provincials on our different rep teams,” said Strachan. “As much as we played against each other on the field, we also went to watch each other’s game and cheered each other on. It was awesome to look on the sidelines and see that kind of unconditional support. There are definitely no egos and that’s pretty cool.”
Carriere, a Grade 10 student at VSS, plays centre defence.She also cross-country runs and plays volleyball,
“I’m good at distributing the ball and communicating with my team and taking feedback from my coaches,” said Carriere, when asked about her soccer strengths.
Looking at the competition, Carriere thinks the Lower Mainland teams will be a challenge.
“I think they will be really fast, because they have more of a selection, but I think we will be able to keep up,” she said.
To test out how they are coming together, the U15 team played in a Canada Day tournament in the U18 category.
“Our coach (Mark MacKenzie) wanted us challenged so he put us into U18 and we won gold,” said Strachan. “In four games we had approximately 17 goals for and zero against. Our team just gets it; it’s an amazing feeling to play with them and I really believe we will represent our region very well.”
Coach MacKenzie is from Kamloops and has previous experience with a Summer Games team as he coached his daughter’s U12 soccer team in the 2012 B.C. Summer Games.
His daughter is too old for this team but he has coached a couple of the girls on this team before and was convinced to take the head job, along with assistant coach Felicia Ogorman of Vernon, and manager Rebecca Metz of Kelowna.
MacKenzie said he looked for the best technical players when choosing the team.
“I think our work rate and our technical ability on the ball will be our strengths,” said MacKenzie. “It should help us compete with the top teams from the coast.”