World game has strong foothold in Hope

Soccer. It’s a sport with about 200 local participants from age 5 to 50-plus, making it perhaps the most popular game in town.

Hope Secondary Mustang

Soccer. It’s a sport with about 200 local participants from age 5 to 50-plus, making it perhaps the most popular game in town.

The Hope Choppers’ men’s team has just wrapped up their winter season in Chilliwack and are starting their outdoor drop-in sessions for the spring and summer. Hope Minor Soccer is back on the Hope Secondary field on Saturday mornings and the HSS girls are in the middle of their season, with some good performances already achieved.

Hope Minor Soccer president, Bruce Becker said the registration numbers are strong again this year.

“We’ve got 38 kids in the kindergarten/grade 1 group and 56 in the grade 2-3-4. There are another 50 in the grade 5-6-7.”

The club has made a few changes this spring, one being the additional optional practice on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

“It’s run like a soccer clinic for grades 2 to 7. We practice the basics of passing, dribbling and kicking” explained Becker, who is also a member of the Choppers’ team. “There were 30 or 40 out last week. We’ve got a high school student, Jonathan Steberl, and he’s been a great help.

“On Saturdays, there are a few more Hope Secondary students helping but it’s mostly parents. Some of the students get credits — but others, like Rachel Deschenes, just enjoy doing it,” said Becker.

“We’re doing small sided games, even in the older age groups, like they’re doing all around B.C. This gives the players more touches on the ball,” he added. “We also added a round-robin tournament for the oldest group, which has six teams. After the five games, the team with the best record gets trophies.”

The Hope Secondary Mustang girls headed for Merritt’s annual “Test of Mettle” tournament on the April 15 weekend and ended up fifth of ten teams.

“We had the third-highest points in our pool, after our round-robin,” said coach Alicia Dubois. “We played Fort St. James, who were third on their side and we ended up tied, 1-1. We had to go to a shoot-out and Richelle Willick scored for us, for the win.”

Willick, Becca Arrowsmith, Tiena Dela-Vega and Reegan Barber are the only grads on the squad that has lots of youth to build from in future years. Nearly 20 girls turn out for the games and everyone gets to take part.

“I’d say at least half of the team are brand new to the game and are starting to get a feel for their positions,” said coach Dubois. “We’re doing well in terms of being competitive. I’m very proud of them.”

In their Fraser Valley AA action, the girls had two road games to start the season. They  fell 2-0 to Abby Traditional in their first match — the first-ever game for over half the team — then held GW Graham to 0-0 at the half. Subbing out key positions and the rainy, muddy conditions contributed to the eventual 6-0 Graham win, figured the coach.

The Graham side was rife with members who play club ball with Chilliwack FC, so the 0-0 half time score was a real coup for the Hope girls.

The girls hosted games last Monday and Wednesday, notching their first win of the season against Langley’s D.W. Poppy on Monday. It was a close contest, with good plays at both ends. Richelle Willick broke through for an open shot on net at the 25:00 mark of the first half to put Hope up 1-0.

Poppy answered back with a goal off a free kick in the second half — then Hope secured the win with a successful penalty kick, after a Poppy hand ball in the penalty area.

“The girls were very excited about the win,” said Dubois.

Wednesday, the Mustangs held Abbotsford’s M.E.I. to a scoreless draw until the 32:00 minute mark of the first half. Victoria Durk used her impressive speed down the right wing to break through and score in the first minute of the second half.

The visitors answered with a tricky chip shot 20 minutes later, then finished the game with great conviction, nearly scoring another on a dangerous cross that perhaps was only kept out by a strong wind gust. 2-1 final.

The Valley Choppers’ men’s team had a great start to the season, then went into a tailspin, due to injuries and unavailable players. Captain Al Berry was out for about 75 per cent of the games with a lower body injury but was able to contribute during the playoffs. He has since had a job transfer to Parksville, so a midfielder will have to be acquired — or developed from existing players.

Choppers goal tender, Kyle Kjemhus said, “Although the season as a whole was pretty disappointing, we managed to put up a strong fight in the playoffs.”

“It was nice to get out first playoff win, in what was probably our best game of the season.

“We followed that performance up pretty well in the first 70 minutes of our second round game, where we were leading 3-2, but we just ran out of gas. It was definitely fun to put a scare into the league’s top team, though.

“It’s pretty unfortunate that we’ll be without Al Berry next year. He’s been the leader of our team for four years now and we’re going to miss him. He’s a talented soccer player and a great teammate and we wish him and his family all the best in Parksville.”

The Choppers host drop-in soccer throughout the spring and summer on Monday and Thursday evenings at Hope Secondary, from 6:30 till about 8:30. Teens and adults are welcome. To aid in making teams, bring a light and a dark shirt.