This week's north central zone single-A girls soccer championship at Rotary Field is a qualifier for the B.C. provincial playoffs in two weeks and the odds of advancing are better than ever for the five teams involved.
Because the Fort St. James Falcons are hosting the 16-team provincial tournament, June 2-4 in Price George, three of the five teams playing in the zone tournament will get a chance to play for the provincial banner. The host team automatically qualifies, while the top two zone finishers (other than the host) also move on to provincial play.
"The provincials have never been north of Kamloops," said Falcons head coach James Waddell.
The Falcons, Lakes District Lakers (Burns Lake), Fraser Lake Cougars, Northside Northstars (Vanderhoof), and Westside Warriors (Prince George) are the five teams battling for the zone title this week.
Games started Wednesday afternoon with Lakes District taking on Northside and Fraser Lake facing Westside. The Falcons are two-time defending champions and Waddell is hoping for a top-10 seeding once they reach the provincial tournament.
"The last couple years we've been 13th or 14th (in B.C.) and we're hoping to win zones again," said Waddell. "We missed out in 2013 - we just had a bad week - but all the other years we've been Number 1.
"Based on the last couple years, Westside is really improving, and the same thing with Northside. They actually beat Fraser Lake in a league game this year."
There will be no playoffs; the team with the most points after round-robin games will claim the zone title. Wins in regulation time are worth three points, an overtime or shootout win is worth two points, and a tie is good for one point in the standings.
The zone tournament resumes Thursday at 10 a.m., when Northside plays Fort St. James and Westside tangles with Lakes District. Then at 2:30 p.m., Fraser Lake meets Fort St. James and Northside clashes with Westside.
Games are scheduled for Friday at 8:30 a.m., noon and 12:30 p.m.