You know you’ve got motivated players when they ask the coach if they can start practicing six months before their season starts.
Hope Secondary’s senior girls’ soccer coach, Jeremy Smith, has been running informal practices on Mondays and Fridays for three weeks, with a core group of about a dozen keeners showing up.
“They are not mandatory,” said Smith, now in his third year as coach. “The girls are the ones that pushed for it. This is the first year that we’ve done it this way.
“The biggest thing we’re working on is to get them to work as a team: making solid passes on the ground, controlling the ball and finding open spaces.”
A handful of young men usually help out with the warm-ups and drills, then play against the girls during the scrimmages. Last Friday, it was Jeremiah Steberl and Yvon McKay helping Smith in a 3-on-10 game.
“We only let the guys have three touches on the ball before they have to pass or shoot,” added Smith. “The girls get as many as they want.”
The group has been fairly lucky with the weather so far — and with the school’s basketball program taking up much of the available gym time, the group may have to get creative when the weather turns foul. With the closing of C.E. Barry School in June due to seismic hazards, they don’t have the option of using that school’s gym space.
Smith said that he held a meeting in October, to gauge the level of interest for the spring season and it was well attended.
“We could get as many as 25 players, like last year,” he said. “I didn’t do any cuts last year — but we had a first team, that got more playing time than the second team.”
On Oct. 28, 18 girls went to the Canada-Japan women’s exhibition match at BC Place. Five parents went along as drivers.
“I got a good deal on the tickets,” said Smith, “only $24 each for first, second and third-row seats in the corner, on the end line. It was a good game… but Japan scored the winner with five seconds left.
“On the way down, we stopped at Soccer Express in Coquitlam, to get some ideas on uniforms that we’ll have to fund raise for.”
If plans come together, the girls will have their names printed on the jerseys, with perhaps a slogan along the lower back, said the coach. They have plenty of time to get funding together before the season kicks off in April.
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In other soccer news, the Valley Choppers men’s team posted their first win of the season last Saturday, in an evening game on Chilliwack Secondary’s artificial turf field. Jeremy Smith is in his third year with the team, playing in the centre midfield.
It took most of the first half to crack through the Tribesmen’s defence but Smith got his first goal of the season with a low shot across the face of the net. Brenden Gillespie scored another for the Choppers, then Hope’s Zane MacDonald launched across from the left corner and Smith leapt to knock it home with a two-footed strike.
HSS grad of 2006, Kyle Kjemhus — the team’s goal-keeper since 2007 — earned his first shutout of the season in the 3-0 win.
The Choppers’ next game is this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fairfield Island Park, versus Old Settler, a team they tied in their first outing.