It was a busy Labour Day weekend for the Yukon Selects. Two Yukon teams, U17 and U15 travelled to Surrey/Langley B.C. to compete in the SX International Cup. The tournament is the largest in the province. About 400 teams participate.
The core of the U17 team was made up of members from the Western Canada Summer Games squad. At the SX Cup, they moved up a category to play in the premier division.
The team opened their tournament against CMFSC Santos and dropped their first match 3-1. They got into the win column in their second game defeating Faly Academy 03, 3-1.
In their penultimate game, they fell 2-1 to Coastal FC though head coach Ash Jordan said they were right there.
“We took it to them but couldn’t buy a goal,” said Jordan. “They snuck two early ones on us before we got one back. That game was cool to watch.”
Their final game they lost to the eventual tournament champions Faly Academy U18 1-0.
Their 1-0 loss came in the waning minutes of the match. Tied at zero, Faly was awarded a penalty kick that they made no mistake on.
Jake Hanson did not travel with the team but does help coach when they are back in the territory. He said the team has shown consistent growth on a year-to-year basis.
“The boys are right there,” said Hanson. “We have never had a team at this level. We had a good result at last year’s Nationals and they have continued to post good results.
“What I’ve seen over the years since being involved in Nationals is the team starting to close the gap.”
Jordan agreed with Hanson’s assessment of the team and has seen a shift in the team’s mentality.
“Every year we are getting better and I think we could have won all four games,” said Jordan. “These boys are getting better and better and since last Nationals, they have had a different attitude.
“It is hard to keep going to these types of tournaments and losing and we are always trying to make them realize they are at this level. They are not satisfied. They are pushing themselves harder than ever and they want the wins.”
At last year’s Nationals, the team placed seventh.
Hanson retold an old anecdote from his former college coach who said: “when you look out on the field half are afraid and half are not.”
The team, Hanson said, is no longer fearful about playing the tough competition in the western provinces and it will put them over the top.
“We have never had a team from the north go out and compete against high-performance teams,” said Hanson.
The U17 team has had a busy summer. They started their season at a tournament in Anchorage before going to Edmonton for some exhibition games and at the Western Canada Summer Games, they were a win away from the podium.
“It’s been quite the year to watch,” said Jordan. “I had that ‘ah-ha’ moment where I realized they have reached a certain level and it’s time to set a new bar.”
Before and on the Thanksgiving weekend, the U17 team will be travelling to P.E.I. to compete at Nationals. Jordan said they will be missing a chunk of the core players, so the younger athletes will get their chance.
“They will have a lot of weight on their shoulders to get the job done,” said Jordan. “It will be a push of the older boys. We have never had the opportunity for guys to fight for position. It will create a competitive environment.”
Hanson said the team’s defence and goaltending has been strong all summer and now it’s about burying their offensive chances.
“We got to the point where we are strong in the back and not giving up goals,” said Hanson. “We are starting to dominate the middle more and just need to finish the chances up top.”
Jordan said the team has been working on their offence since the outdoor season began.
“Early in the season we were scoring goals at the (SX Cup) we were missing some offensive presence,” said Jordan because the team was missing some of the core players. “We were getting into the areas, just couldn’t score. It was a good opportunity for the young guys to get on the pitch.”
The SX Cup features the best teams in B.C. Jordan said the competition will only continue to get harder as the players get bigger, faster and stronger.
“We have to set our own bars and push them harder,” said Jordan. “They get it now, they get the whole picture.”
The U15 team played to an 0-4 record in Surrey and Langley but Hanson said like the U17 team they will continue to progress and get better year-by-year.
“I guarantee they will be closer next year,” said Hanson. “Right now they are competing against more physically advanced players.”