The Whitecaps FC Kootenay girls lit up the competition at the 2018 AstroTurf Collegiate Showcase at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington.
The Kootenay U-18 girls have been crowned champions at this year’s showcase, while the U-16 Kootenay girls came away with only one loss.
With the success of the team, it shows the development of the players from this region.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Sam Heap, Whitecaps FC Kootenay Academy head coach, about the U-18 team that went undefeated with three wins and one draw.
“The way they played was fantastic. It was probably some of the best stuff we have seen in that age group. It proves that the transition of the program works.”
There was a group of 17 girls on the team, and 10 of the players were playing an age group up.
Cranbrook was represented by three players on the Kootenay team. Sarah Engler, leading goal scorer, Sarah Brooks-White and goaltender Kaiden Thorpe who played three years up.
“This is the first time they won. We had the most points out of 15 teams there. So, it was the first time that has ever happened,” said Heap.
“We have never won three out of four games- – it’s incredible. Especially when you look at the level of competition we are playing against. Some of the teams were state champions and all kinds of stuff.”
Getting those wins will be positive for their confidence, especially when they are looking to be scouted.
“To see the ‘W’ next to some results is really good for confidence. It really builds them up a lot and shows we are going in the right direction as well,” said Heap.
The U-16 team finished the tournament with three draws and one loss with a lot of the players on the team playing an age group up.
“The team they lost to was from the island, and that team has gone 9-1 this year, so they were pretty decent,” said Heap adding the three draws came from the tough competition by American teams.
“It was a good experience for them. Predominately in that age, you get mixed results. It’s usually the older age groups that really come in their own, but it was a pretty good weekend.”
Ten of the players in the U-16 group are from Cranbrook.
The showcase is an annual tournament and sees the best teams battling it out in the field. At the event, there are many coaches and scouts from university and colleges who look to recruit.
All of the girls who have participated have a target to get scholarships as part of the Caps to College program. The selection-based system is designed for players U-15 to U-18 who are looking for opportunities to play in college, university and beyond.
“We are hoping to keep winning and getting good performances that more scouts come knocking at our doors,” said Heap, noting each year there are usually five to seven players signed for scholarships throughout the academy.
In the last two years, there have been 14 Kootenay players who have moved on to post-secondary soccer, which is evidence of the focus the club has made to these smaller regions.
“This program really shows how seriously the club is taking their focus towards improving the level in these smaller regions, and giving them the opportunity to shine and be showcased,” said Heap.