The Whistler Secondary School (WSS) senior boys soccer team is one step closer to the AA division provincial championships.
The WSS squad came out on top in their first qualifying game on Monday (Oct. 24), beating out Sechelt’s Chatelech Secondary School with a score of 4-3 at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, in what head coach Chris Knight described as a “crazy good game.”
The team, comprised of Grade 10 and 11 students and one Grade 12, has been practicing every Thursday since the second week of September in an effort to make it to the provincial championships, slated to take place Nov. 21 to 23.
“Provincials is the goal, but they know we have to just take it one day at the time. We have to be ready for every game,” said Knight, adding that WSS boys’ soccer has never qualified for the provincials. “They’ve always come really close, but no cigar.”
This year’s team is hoping to change that.
While a handful of WSS players also playing in the competitive West Vancouver metro league, the team also features several international students hailing from Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Chile and Spain.
“They’ve brought their skill to the team, and so it looks like we have a pretty strong group, although our competition will be a lot of Grade 11s and 12s, so bigger kids. It’s our plan to spread the ball and make these big kids run around,” said Knight.
While the squad’s strength is a result of an eclectic mix of abilities and backgrounds, the wide range of experiences can also pose a challenge when trying to develop a cohesive playing style.
“Our practices has been focused on gelling the team together, and playing a simple style of football that works, and that everyone understands,” said Knight. “We can just come up with our game plan and get everyone playing on the same page.”
But playing in Whistler means there’s only a limited number of opportunities to employ this strategy in a real game situation.
The boys began their season with two exhibition matches to help them prepare, the first of which was played against Pemberton Secondary School in September, followed by another friendly matchup against a local team. “That was a really fun match,” said Knight.
“We did really well against (Pemberton). I think we surprised Pemberton with the level of play that we were at,” he added.
With the closest high school league based in the Lower Mainland, the team’s first taste of official competition comes in the form of zone qualifying games like Monday’s. WSS must play a team in this league in order to knock them out of the competition, effectively creating a space for themselves in the zones.
But these games are do-or-die: the boys must win each match in order to advance to the next round, while a loss will put an end to their season. Following Monday’s big victory, they’ll have to win two more of these zone matches in order to compete at provincials.
“The competition is sure to be tough,” said Knight. “There’s lots of pressure, but it’s fun.”