The Prince George Timberwolves are poised to make Prince George soccer history.
All they have to do is beat Kamloops in a two-game under-18 boys soccer playoff series June 24-25 and they'll be on their way to Surrey for the A provincial championship tournament.
That would be uncharted territory for any Prince George Youth Soccer Association boys team and U-18 boys head coach John Ribeiro likes his team's chances. A few weeks ago, the T-wolves defeated the Kamloops Blaze 3-0 and 2-0 and Ribeiro says they will be ready for the rematch in Kamloops next weekend.
The winner of the two-game series advances to the U-18 A provincials in Surrey, July 6-9.
"Last year we did poorly against them, we played them twice and lost, then we played down against them (in playoffs) and they beat us two more times, and it's Kamloops that's in our way again to go to (the A provincials)," said Ribeiro.
"The boys side have never gone to A provincials and hopefully we're destined to get there. This is such a good team - they're quick, they're fast, they're so committed and that's making a difference. They're showing up to practice, listening and working hard. We have a lot of speed from all directions and that gives us a lot of different dimensions. We can attack from the defence, from the midfield and from the forwards."
Two of the T-wolves' most formidable weapons - Anthony Preston and Graeme Lewis - have played in the B.C. Soccer High Performance Program.
Preston is drawing double-duty playing in Vancouver for Fusion FC U-17 team in the B.C. Soccer Premier League. He's seen action in five games for the Fusion and will be back in Vancouver on Sunday to play in a semifinal playoff game against Coquitlam. If they win their league, the 17-year-old centre midfielder will compete in the national U-17 championship late next month in Regina.
"He's amazing, he's so good," said Ribeiro. "He's going back and forth between us and Vancouver and he's registered through us, but I'm permitting him up to play some games in Vancouver and he's making a huge difference."
Preston, 17, played on the Prince George team that won the U-16 B provincials two years ago and is looking forward to competing for the U-18 A crown. To get that far, the T-wolves will have to play to their strengths.
"If the other team is better than us, skill-wise, we can kind of sit back and throw our fast guys up front and play the ball long to them," said Preston. "That will be our fallback strategy.
"We have a good balance of speed up front, skill in the midfield and the bigger, more physical players on the defensive line."
Lewis played four years at midfield with Thompson Okanagan FC of the Premier League, but decided to return to his youth soccer buddies in Prince George for one last kick at the can before he graduates to university soccer with the UNBC Timberwolves.
"I grew up with these guys my whole life so I thought it was only right to finish off my last year with them," said the 18-year-old Lewis. "We've never beaten Kamloops to go to A provincials and we've already beat Kamloops twice, so hopefully we can beat them in the playoffs. We're definitely better than them, we just have to score."
Luke Brbot provides a veteran presence to the midfield, while strikers Tyler and Matthew Macsemniuk bring their hockey instincts to create havoc in the attacking zone.
"Most of us have been together since we were like 10 years old and for some of us this is our last year so we're excited to take a shot at A provincials," said Tyler Macsemniuk. "We have a pretty good chance to win it, we're looking pretty good for Kamloops. I think we're the best team for our age group ever to come out of Prince George. Being together for awhile has helped a lot with the chemistry, but individually, we're pretty strong. We have a lot of athletic kids and that helps."
Carter Karpenko, a volleyball/basketball star for Duchess Park, has great leaping ability which he utilizes as the T-wolves' goalkeeper. Colburn Pierce, a running back for the Duchess Park football team, has blazing speed and a freight-train focus that makes him dangerous leading the rush from the back end. He's back after taking a year off soccer. T-wolves defenders Hunter Barks, Joseph Giesbrecht and Kyle Wilkinson, a national-calibre judo athlete, are also blessed with an abundance of soccer smarts and exceptionally quick feet.
In tournament action, the T-wolves finished first in their pool at the Slurpee Cup tournament in Kamloops and played Victoria to a 2-2 tie in the championship game, May 23. There was no overtime or shootout and both teams shared first-place honours.
The U-18 roster also includes Kevin Durand, Peter Kemp, Landon Kitchen, Matthew Kuc, Cecil MacRae, Nickolas Ohori and Matthew Wilkinson. Mike Sexton is the T-wolves' assistant coach.