ONE year ago the EA Sports B.C. Soccer Premier League was created to give the province's elite youth players a place to shine and one North Shore/Burnaby-based team has proven to be one of the brightest of the bunch.
The Mountain United under-16 girls will leave tomorrow for Charlottetown, P.E.I., where they'll battle for the U16 club Canadian Championship. Nine players, half the team, come from the North Shore while the other half come from Burnaby, Surrey, Port Moody and Vancouver.
What they all share, said head coach Lee Tregonning, is talent. "A lot, a lot of talent."
The girls charged through the inaugural season in the BCSPL, an all-star league made up of eight clubs from across the province, with a 10-1-1 record and then went on to dispatch Coquitlam Metro Ford 2-0 in the provincial cup final to book their ticket to P.E.I.
In a league full of all-stars, the Mountain United girls were head and shoulders above the rest, said Tregonning.
"We're the sort of freak team that happens every few years," he said. "They're fantastic, a great bunch of girls. . . . They've just followed each other from 10 years of age and they've stuck together."
The Mountain United Club was created as a partnership between all of the boys and girls soccer associations on the North Shore and in Burnaby. Many of the U16 girls share a past and Tregonning believes they'll share a prosperous future as well. Ten players have already signed on to play in the Whitecaps youth program once the national tournament is over and Tregonning can envision them going even further than that.
"With this team we're looking at at least 10 who've got a good chance of having a future with the national team," he said.
Some of the credit should go to the BCSPL, said Tregonning. The new circuit replaced the old Metro League as the top tier in the province and has given players more time on the training pitch with more access to high-level coaching.
"It's fantastic," the coach said. "You get to play against all the best players week in, week out, all likeminded so they're all competing to be the best."
The league began with a warm-up "mini season" last fall before beginning in earnest this spring with a full season. Teams train three times a week and play on the weekends.
"It's a no-brainer, really, for development of the kids," said Tregonning. "They get the continuity of good, quality coaching rather than a volunteer parent like before. It's quality games every weekend, good competition."
At the national tournament Mountain United will be in a pool with Quebec and P.E.I., opening play against the host team on Thursday. They'll meet Quebec on Friday and then be off to the playoffs. Their goal for the tournament, said Tregonning, is a simple one.
"Go win it. It's straightforward. We've got to be, if not favourites, a favourite team there to go win it. We'll be going allout to win the tournament."
A former professional player from Wales, Tregonning moved to Vancouver four years ago and has played a large role in Mountain United's creation. He's head coach of the club's girls program, ranging from U12 to U18. Coaching this U16 team has been particularly special for the former pro.
"It's an absolute privilege," said Tregonning. "Every session is a privilege, really. It's good, top-quality soccer. Their mentalities are some of the best I've seen. Their teamwork, their togetherness, their morale is fantastic."
For a complete schedule and updated results for the national tournament visit tsisports.ca/natchamptmp/.