High school soccer provincials get underway

Sixteen teams are in the hunt for the single-A girls provincial soccer championship.

By Saturday afternoon, only one will be left standing.

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History will be made today at Rotary Soccer Fields starting at 9 a.m. when the tournament begins on four fields. Never before has a B.C. provincial high school soccer championship been contested in any city north of Kamloops and tournament organizer James Waddell, head coach of the host Fort St. James Falcons, can't wait to show off the pristine natural grass facility to the visiting teams.

"It was almost two years ago that we put in our bid to host this and the Prince George Youth Soccer Association, the referees co-ordinators, and everybody associated with soccer in Prince George has been very co-operative right from Day 1," said Waddell.

"It will be a new experience for a lot of the teams from down south and I'm glad the high school soccer commission accepted our bid.

"The facility is the best I've seen it in years, the field conditions are great. We've received financial support from many businesses in Prince George and Fort St. James."

Teams have been grouped into one of four four-team pools and each team will play three preliminary-round games before playoffs begin Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.

The placement round starts Saturday at 9 a.m., leading up to the championship game at 11:30 a.m.

"This year there are six or seven teams that are very capable of winning it," said Wadell, whose Falcons defeated the Lakes District Lakers of Burns Lake 1-0 to claim the North Central zone title two weeks ago.

The Northside Christian North Stars of Vanderhoof will also represent the zone. Having three local teams involved will no doubt pump up the crowd counts around the fields and Waddell said several of the families of the players will be staying overnight in the city.

A crowd of 339 is expected for the tournament banquet to be held at the Coast Inn of the North ballroom Friday evening. The guest speaker will be Jessica Vliegenthart, a former national team soccer player from Kamloops who went on to represent Canada in wheelchair basketball at the 2012 Paralympics, eight years after she suffered paralyzing injuries in a vehicle accident while working as a firefighter near the Alberta-Northwest Territories border.

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