When the UNBC Timberwolves stopped in Penticton to restock their women's soccer team cupboard, they got a line on three Okanagan treasures.
One of those players, centre back McKenzie Ricard, signed with UNBC a month ago, while the other two, centre midfielder Alena Carlile and outside back Kylie Erb, made up their minds after head coach Andy Cameron made them an offer after seeing them in action a couple weekends ago at a showcase tournament in Vancouver.
Carlile, a nursing student, and Erb, a business major, toured the UNBC facilities on Friday after making the drive north with their dads. Both were impressed in the recruiting phase with Cameron's initial response when they emailed their interest in attending UNBC and after meeting some of the players they were sold on joining the T-wolves.
"Everyone is really welcoming and I'm excited to get to know them better," said Erb, who lives in Summerland. "Some of the people we met at other universities didn't seem to care, it wasn't as comforting. Hearing about how the team has improved over the last couple year and how the program has grown is really cool and hopefully we can help a bit. "
In September, UNBC will begin its third CIS season in a realigned Canada West Pacific Division along with UBC, UVic, Fraser Valley, Thompson Rivers and the defending national champions, Trinity Western. With at least three strong teams in TWU, UBC and UVic, and no regular season crossover into the Prairie Division, the T-wolves are in a tougher division than they were last year when they were grouped together with the rest of the Canada West field and played weaker teams such as Lethbridge, Winnipeg, and Manitoba. UNBC finished 11th out of 13 teams with a 1-9-2 record.
"I'm glad to be involved in a team that's fairly new to the CIS," said Carlile, a health sciences/nursing student from Penticton. "I like the pressure of having to compete against someone and being in that situation where you feel a little uncomfortable. That just makes you grow more as a player.
"Because it's a newer team, the success maybe isn't there. With other teams you might not get to play much. There's just more opportunity to maybe get a foot in and get some more playing time in the first year."
Carlile, Erb and Ricard grew up playing club soccer together in the Penticton and they'll spend one more summer together with the under-18 team trying to win a provincial A title for the first time. Erb watched the T-wolves lose a couple of exhibition games against the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack a few weeks ago in Kamloops and was impressed with what she saw.
The speed of the game and the physical nature of play of the CIS will mean a steep learning curve for Carlile and Erb and it remains to be seen how quickly they will adjust.
"Kylie can also play at the back and she's very quick and tenacious in her defending," said Cameron. "The quickness allows her to go forward as well. Alena plays in the middle of the park and she's strong and physical and that physical presence helps with the program.
"We're excited to have a connection with Penticton and have the three of them join the program. The exciting thing about these three is that they're versatile enough to play in different positions."
This weekend, UNBC has invited 30 players from northern B.C., Kamloops and Edmonton to a tryout camp that runs Saturday and Sunday at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.