Women's soccer league welcoming teenagers

There's a youth movement going on in the Prince George Women's Soccer Association.

For the first time in history, the league is allowing girls as young as 15 to play in the league this season. As long as they turn 16 by Dec. 31 they're eligible to play.

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"Some of those girls in the (Prince George Youth Soccer Association) don't have anywhere else to play and don't get a lot of games so we're opening it up to have them register with the women as well," said PGWSA media relations director Michele David.

"They won't be registering as teams, just as players. There is a plan that if the youth teams want to play the women (in exhibition games) we'll get some women out to play. We want to continue to expand the league and bring new people in."

The age restriction last year was all players had to be at least 17 by the end of the calendar year.

The league will stage its annual youth soccer draft on April 18. Draft-eligible players are considered premier players if they have played college or university soccer within five years of the draft. All premier players must play in the open division.

The season starts on May 15. Teams in the Open Division will play Monday and Wednesday evenings, while Recreation Division teams square off for games Tuesdays and Thursdays. The league icebreaker tournament is set for May 6-7.

Seven teams will compete in the Open Division, with nine playing in the Rec Division.

The women's league, in conjunction with the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League, will continue to offer drop-in co-ed seven-aside recreational soccer on Friday nights from 6:30-8 p.m. Registered players in either league are eligible to play in the co-ed games. This is the third year for the co-ed league, which had about 60 players registered last year. A co-ed tournament in September will wrap up the season.

Players in the two women's divisions can register for the whole season for $160 or can chose to buy 10-game punch cards for $100, which allow players to float to different teams.

The PGWSA has been saving for a $170,000 project to install lights on one of the two pitches at Michelle Lamarche Field, adjacent to North Cariboo Field, and David says this year that will happen.

"We'd like to shift to later start times," said David. "Right now our first games start at 6 and the second game is at 7:30 and when we get lights we can shift it to a 6:30 start, so we're finished by 9."

The city's three adult soccer leagues - PGWSA, North Cariboo and B.C. Indoor Soccer League - are having discussions about amalgamation to create one adult league. That comes as a result of a thawing of relations between the executives bodies of the two outdoor leagues. Women's teams have long wanted better access to the North Cariboo League's clubhouse facilities and David is hopeful they will soon join forces in a formal arrangement.

"We're all talking about it and looking at how it can be done," she said.

"We're all doing the same thing so why not bring it all together. Maybe it will cut down some (administrative) costs and we'll be able to expand the league."

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