Sea to Sky youth soccer thriving

Participation booms as local fall teams take to fields throughout corridor, Lower Mainland

While the Whistler Secondary soccer team shows how far young players can go, hundreds of budding Whistler and Pemberton soccer stars are right behind them.

The Whistler Youth Soccer Club (WYSC) has 325 players enrolled for its fall season, while the Pemberton Youth Soccer Association (PYSA) boasts about 190 participants. As play in the first half of the season draws to a close this week, the teams for players ages six to 17 have made their mark in a variety of locales.

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The U11, U14 and U18 girls' and boys' teams from Pemberton and Whistler play in the Squamish Youth Soccer Association's annual fall league. The PYSA U18 girls' team has been undefeated in Squamish league play, as has one of Whistler's two U11 girls' teams.

PYSA Administrator Bettina Falloon said the Pemberton registration numbers are higher than ever this year, and the local teams have been performing admirably in the Squamish league.

WYSC Administrator Angela Mellor wrote in an email to The Question that the Whistler U11 boys' coaches hosted a successful tournament in October including Pemberton and Squamish teams, and the U11 boys' team is still alive in single-knockout Northshore Community Cup play after winning their first game in Whistler. The team plays a second round in Vancouver on Saturday (Nov. 15).

The Whistler U11 girls' team was knocked out of Northshore Cup in a close match with the West Vancouver Wildcats on Nov. 2.

Mellor reported that the Whistler U14 girls' team finished third in their division at a Thanksgiving tournament on the North Shore, causing coach Stefan Delage to comment that the event improved the group's level of play, team spirit and soccer skills.

The members of the Whistler-Pemberton Spartans, a senior girls' representative team first formed last season, are currently tearing it up in a U18 Silver division within the B.C. Coastal Girls League.

The Spartan squad is tied for second in its division, with a sparkling 7-2 record despite being the youngest team in the division. This year, the team includes a few new faces, more Pemberton players and an athlete from the Mount Currie Soccer Club.

Mellor said coach Bernard Messeguer is proud of the athletes, as they are talented players who represent their communities well.

The youngest Whistler and Pemberton players have developed their skills through weekly play and practices, plus the PYSA's third annual Fall Soccer Jamboree. Held in mid-October, the popular tournament drew about 130 players from Pemberton, Whistler and one Squamish team.

Falloon said the turnout was terrific, and glory was spread evenly around as the top-scoring teams in each category came from each of the three different communities: Whistler Team 2 topped the U9 boys division, the Squamish girls' team scored the most among the U9 girls squads and Pemberton Team 2 led scoring in the U7 division.

The Jamboree is "just great for intercommunity play, and it's a fun opportunity for (the players) to gain some experience in a game environment on a larger scale," Falloon said.

Though this week's end of play in the Squamish fall league wraps up the season for most of the Whistler and Pemberton teams, the Spartans will continue on until the end of November, and there are plans for a U14 Whistler boys' team to tackle the February-through-April play in the Squamish league for the first time.

"Whistler players are too busy skiing, but this year coach Chris Knight feels he has a team committed enough to skip skiing for soccer," Mellor wrote.

The PYSA plans to celebrate its players who competed in the Squamish league at a Nov. 22 awards dinner and silent auction in the Pemberton Community Centre. Sportsmanship and MVP awards will be handed out at the event, which is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. The event is for PYSA members only, and families are asked to RSVP to their coaches.

WYSC organizers are grateful for the support and donations the club receives from local businesses such as Watermark Communications, Wild Wood Restaurants, the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Sundial Hotel, Creekside Market, Nesters, IGA, the Village Grocery Store and Sportstop.

PYSA organizers appreciate the contributions from the Pemberton Valley Lodge, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, Dave Russell, Paul Selina, John Kellar and Proteus On-Demand, as well as the efforts of the PYSA coaches and board members.

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