National senior soccer championships begin today at UPEI
Rob Aitken of Churchill Arms kicks the ball as Tommy Craig of Hunter's Ale House looks on.
By Nick Murray
Special to The Guardian
Soccer fans across the province are in for a treat this week as the BMO national senior championships begin today in Charlottetown.
Canada’s best senior amateur teams will be contesting the men’s Challenge Trophy and the women’s Jubilee Trophy.
P.E.I. hosted the senior championship in 2004, and the British Columbia women’s champion Surrey United is hoping for a successful return visit.
Charlottetown was where it began for this team, which includes national team players Randee Hermus and Katie Thorlakson. Surrey has medalled in all its previous six visits to nationals, including gold in 2006.
The Edmonton Victoria Soccer Club will likely be the team to beat, having won the trophy in 2004, 2005 and 2009, when they defeated Surrey on penalty kicks.
Edmonton will have 12 national champions in its lineup.
Keshia Wallin scored the goal in the Alberta Provincial Cup final that booked her team’s passage to P.E.I.
The women’s draw will also feature strong representation from Nova Scotia in Halifax Dunbrack Austin Homes. Nova Scotia has two national titles to its credit in the last seven years, and was runner-up in 2004.
Dunbrack won bronze in 2009, and will look to Katie Richard for goals. The Dalhousie University striker was joint top-scorer in the 2009 tournament.
Ontario has not won a Jubilee Trophy since 2002, and the Barrie Spirit will be looking to end that. They posted an impressive 12-1 league record.
Strong performances are also expected by the other teams. Quebec has just one Jubilee Trophy to its name, Dynamo in 2007, but Les Verts de Sherbrooke will be a match for anybody, and the Holy Cross Kirby Group from Newfoundland and Labrador has been a tight knit group for many seasons. The team has a wealth of nationals experience, and Malorie Harris will be one of the most dangerous strikers in the tournament.
P.E.I.’s Pilot House will look to experienced performers Amy Connolly and Tessa Roche to get them through a tough pool.
The WSA North Stars from Winnipeg have shown they are a determined crew by winning their provincial championship with only 11 dressed players after a number of injuries. They have a wealth of experienced players at nationals.
Manitoba’s representative, Lucania FC, will be No. 1 seed following Hellas’s win in 2009, and the Winnipeg team posted a national win in 2000. Lucania was unbeaten when they came to P.E.I. in 2004, but found scoring difficult. That shouldn’t be a problem this time. Manitoba has an excellent record in recent Challenge Trophy competitions, with three championships in the last 10 years.
Quebec’s last championship win was in 1998, but the Royal Select de Beauport lost 1-0 in the 2009 final. Back for a second crack at the title, the Quebec City club will look to Boris Salou, leading scorer in the 2009 tournament. They had an outstanding season in the very tough Quebec league and will be a medal favourite.
Alberta is traditionally strong at nationals, and the Calgary Dinos will look to uphold the city’s proud record of a Calgary team winning three times in eight years.
Gorge FC from Victoria, B.C., won a silver medal in 2001 and will be attending its second championship in the past three years.
Holy Cross Kirby will be one the best-supported teams at the championships, and the two-time Newfoundland and Labrador champions will be looking to do even better than their sixth-place finish last year. In 2009, they went undefeated in round-robin play in the rain-ruined tournament, and this time they will be looking to turn ties into wins.
They meet P.E.I.’s Churchill Arms today. Game time is 7 p.m.
AEK London enjoyed a fantastic season, winning the Ontario Cup, Western Ontario Soccer League and League Cup.
Saskatchewan will be well represented by Huskie United Alumni, another team that will be returning to its second consecutive national championship.
The Maritime challenge will come from two P.E.I. teams, the third-seeded Churchill Arms and 10th-ranked Hunter’s Ale House, while Halifax Dunbrack City Mazda will be looking to win Nova Scotia’s second Challenge Trophy.
Today’s games at UPEI:
9.30 a.m., Alberta vs. B.C. (men)
12.30 p.m., Manitoba vs. Saskatchewan (men)
4 p.m., Quebec vs. Nova Scotia (men)
6 p.m., opening ceremonies
7 p.m. – P.E.I. (Churchill Arms) vs. Newfoundland and Labrador (men)