All-season soccer is now a fact of the East Kootenay, with the opening of the indoor soccer facility at Balment Park. (Photo courtesy Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association)

All-season soccer is now a fact of the East Kootenay, with the opening of the indoor soccer facility at Balment Park. (Photo courtesy Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association)

Dawn of the Dome: New era of soccer underway in EK

Year-round soccer programming begins at new indoor sports facility in Cranbrook

Two months after its opening, the indoor sports facility in Balment Park is proving a boon for local soccer. The KEYSA indoor season has just begun, several local players have signed letters of intent with colleges, and new young players are taking advantage of the programming being offered by KEYSA (Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association) and the Whitecaps Academy.

“We’re up and running, full steam ahead, which is nice,” said Adam Mooi, head coach of the Whitecaps Academy, a youth program operated under the auspices of the professional Vancouver Whitecaps club.

“We’ve got the Whitecaps program going on and the Caps to College as well. So it’s definitely being used, and we’re very thankful that we’re able to train, compared to other parts of the country.”

Mooi said that three Cranbrook players on the girls side have just signed letters of intent with colleges. Lucy Lalach is going to Langara College in Vancouver, Kenzie Fulton and Ana Waurynchuk are both going to Medicine Hat College.

“It shows that having the Caps to College program gives the players these opportunities, and that the players are taking these opportunities,” Mooi said.

“Being in training in a small town in a bit of a lesser market, you might say — having that exposure and understanding of what the process is is crucial to make sure they can go about it properly. And the credit’s on them, really. All three of them have worked super hard at making sure they have all the processes and documents in place,and started to contact the colleges and universities. And their hard work has paid off.”

While the Covid-19 pandemic is still a factor, East Kootenay soccer has entered a new era with the indoor facility in Cranbrook, which provides the opportunity to play all year round.

For Lucy Lalach, who is be attending Langara, studying towards a Bachelor of Science, the facility made a huge difference as to her soccer training.

“I am actually able to practice my goalie skills properly since we are now practicing on turf instead of gym floors,” she said.

Lalach will be playing goaltender for the Langara Falcons.

“In preparation for signing, I researched schools I was interested in, and got in contact with different coaches. I then looked at the athletics and academics to help make my final decision of Langara College.

“Taking my sport to the next level will be difficult but I am excited for the challenges ahead. It will be fun to play with a higher level team and experience college soccer.”

Ana Waurynchuk, who is one of the players heading to Medicine Hat College to play for the Rattlers, said the new dome made a big difference for all the players in KEYSA to have the opportunity to train indoors through the winter months .

“The preparation to play at the college level has been a lot of fun,” Waurynchuk said. “I’ve spent years on the pitch playing the game and practicing, training in the gym and studying hard to get good grades in school to prepare for an opportunity like this.

“I think that playing at the next level is going to be challenging on and off the pitch. I believe the game is going to be fast and physical and I’m working hard to make sure I’m fit and ready for that when I get to Medicine Hat.”

Waurynchuk plans to start working on her Bachelor of Education while playing Fullback for the Rattlers.

“Personally, I’ve loved having the new indoor facility because it’s given me the opportunity to improve my skills through out the winter season,” said Kenzie Fulton, another Rattler. “It’s definitely impacted my own training because indoor soccer is more skill based and a lot faster.”

Fulton, who plays defensive centre midfield and attacking centre midfield, has been trying to get as many touches on the ball as possible and pushing herself to get in the best shape possible ahead of moving on to the next level.

“I think it’s going to be a good challenge for me, and I’m super excited about it.”

Fulton will be taking her Bachelors of Kinesiology while at Medicine Hat College.

“KEYSA has never had an indoor facility before.” Mooi said. “We’re up to almost 80 players in the indoor program. It’s a great start.

“We’re starting to get some good things in place. Just from the Whitecaps’ perspective, we’ve had lots of conversations with KEYSA about different sponsorships and getting sponsorships for the Dome, which is positive. We’ve got some good numbers in our U-14 age group as well as the Whitecaps Academy Centre, which is going to be the next recruiting class for the Caps to College program come September.

“We’ve added a U-8, U-10 age group in the Whitecaps Academy Centre. We’ve got some younger players coming in. Not a whole ton of numbers, but they’re starting to get exposure to the Whitecaps and to soccer, getting an opportunity. That’s been a great group of players, and fun to work with.

“On the KEYSA side, I just had a conversation with a contact in Fernie, looking to gets some games, and expand, and looking to make sure the programming is going to be a little bit more competitive and have a few more competitions.”

“Ultimately, with an indoor facility like this, in two or three years we might be able to run some indoor tournaments, some indoor jamborees, and just continue to keep the buzz going all throughout the year about soccer, not just in spring and summer. “