The Whistler Secondary School boys soccer team wasn’t in attendance at the provincial championship tournament last Thursday, after wrapping up their season with a disappointing loss in a single elimination match on Oct. 27.
Because Whistler Secondary doesn’t fall in a predetermined league, the team was tasked with scheduling their own exhibition games before challenging a North Shore school to earn a spot in zone championships.
“We had one game, which we had to win — it’s a single game knockout — and we were one and done,” explained head coach Ian van Gruen.
The Storm’s provincial hopes were dashed after suffering a 4-1 loss against Sutherland Secondary. However, the result was the case of some bad luck for WSS. “Me and my opposing coach agreed that that score flattered them,” van Gruen said. “We could have very easily won and we missed four or five wide open nets from two, three metres out in front of the net. It was quite shocking to see how we couldn’t put the ball in the net, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
The loss was particularly disappointing for their coach, who had a coincidentally personal connection to their opponent: “We didn’t know who it was going to be until the Tuesday before our game, and it turns out it was Sutherland Secondary School, where I went to high school,” he said with a laugh. “So I was quite excited about the possibility of playing and hopefully beating them.”
The WSS team was comprised of players ranging from Grades 8 to 12. However, this year’s squad had some extra leadership power with 11 of the team’s 18 players being in Grade 12.
“That was great,” their coach said. “That really helped us. I had no experience with the senior boys and what their competition was like, but it made me quite excited about the prospect of being competitive, and we certainly were. We were very competitive and just unlucky not to carry on.”
Although the boys only played two exhibition games, both against Pemberton in the lead up to their North Shore matchup, they performed well and won both games.
Despite the short season, it was still a busy fall for the team. As van Gruen explained, the challenge with the boys soccer season — as opposed to the girls, which takes place in the spring — is that it takes place while most club teams’ seasons are still in full swing.
“They’re training twice a week, generally in Squamish, North Van or Burnaby, and then they’re playing games on the weekend, so even trying to get them out for training is kind of a challenge just because they’re overworked at that point.”
To that end, the team’s initial schedule of twice-weekly practices didn’t last long. “It became apparent pretty early on that one day a week was plenty. We were just training on Tuesdays and if we weren’t training, we were playing exhibition games. The whole season was done in five or six weeks,” he said. “It’s great that they make an effort to come out and play.”
However, the season’s timing worked out well for one group of WSS players, in particular. The Storm had six international students on this year’s roster, coming from countries like Finland, Switzerland, Spain.
“It’s great for them to create some camaraderie and some friendships given that it’s the start of the school year, so it really does help bring them into the school,” van Gruen said.