Last week’s exhibition games were a bonus for the Yukon Selects Under-16 girls soccer club.
It’s not often the team gets an opportunity to play teams of the same gender and age, as they’re the only competitive team of that age class in the Yukon.
The games against the Vancouver Island team from Ladysmith near Nanaimo provided head coach Cali Battersby with a valuable look at the squad before they head down to the SX Cup in Surrey, B.C. later this month.
It provided valuable insight for her roster of 15.
“It gives the girls an opportunity to see what they’re up against,” she says in an interview while standing on the side lines at one of the matches.
“It gives me an opportunity to see what our team looks like defensively and what we have to work on offensively without the high stress (of live tournament action.)
“It’s a great opportunity for our players to go out and get a bit of competition.”
Battersby said they do play local games here against other teams if they can arrange them but it’s not the same as going head-to-head with a club of the same age group.
There are some local women who are playing on university teams, one of whom grew up and was suited up for the exhibition series to help out the Selects squad. Some will be trying out this year for clubs down south.
The club from Ladysmith comes with a coaching staff with some pedigree.
Bill Merriman of the Merriman Soccer Academy was at the university national championships this year as head coach of the Vancouver Island University, and his son Chris was on the team. They won the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association title.
Bill started the Merriman Soccer program quite a few years ago, and Chris has been through it. So has his other son James Merriman who currently oversees the Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-15 residency team.
Bill used to be in charge of the Whitecaps Vancouver Island program.
His and Chris’ experience is evident in the ball skills of their Merriman U-16 girls, and in their management of the field of play.
Bills says he’s always wanted to come up here with a club, having known local soccer buff Derric Lewis for several years.
Working with Lewis, they finally made it happen.
Lewis, a member of the Selects club whose son plays on the Selects U-16 boys squad, says he recognizes how the U-16 girls can benefit from the exposure to other teams at the same level.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids to see other kids,” he says in an interview shortly after taking the Merriman squad on a float down the Yukon River. “It’s a benefit I guess.
“They try to have regular games but there is just not a whole lot of competition for them.”
Bill says what he sees in the Selects is promise, a team that plays as a unit, as a team.
“Definitely, they have the capability to play at a higher level if they stay together.”
That’s the plan, says the Selects head coach.
Battersby says the series of games against the Merriman club provides her players with another valuable step in their preparation for the SX Cup.
In addition to the Selects U-16 girls, a Yukon Selects U-16 boys team and a Selects U-13 boys squad will also be heading to Surrey at the end of the month.