When regional head coach Brett Adams first started coaching in the Kootenays, he made it his goal to encourage a well-rounded Whitecaps Academy approach to soccer, where his charges carefully build plays and take advantage of passing opportunities rather than booting the ball to the end of the field.
This past weekend, as 96 games were played over three days for the Terry Walgren tournament, Adams was proud to see his players putting their learning into practice—many of them emerging victorious after days of hard-fought competition.
The Star sat down with Adams to hear how the Selects performed.
“It was a humbling experience,” he said. “Not just the way the Nelson teams played, but the Kootenays as a whole. You can see they’re expanding their knowledge and playing an entirely different style from years previous.”
U-11 and U-12 boys and girls
The youngest players competed in a jamboree-style event, and though results weren’t gathered Adams said it was a good opportunity for the kids to have fun.
“I was walking around speaking to the coaches, and they all agreed they’re doing really well. Even as far down as there, they’re already starting to put our new style into play.”
He said their play was impressive, and he enjoys imagining how they’ll progress on their way up to U-18.
“If they’re playing like this now, imagine what they’re going to be doing in six years.”
The U-13 boys played against local Kootenay teams and managed to come away with a gold medal for the weekend.
“There was a bit of drama in that game, because it went over-time. Now there’s a rule in soccer called the golden goal rule, not heavily used, where if you get a goal in overtime the game’s over. Our boys managed to get that goal.”
Adams said he personally watched as Nelsonite Carter Anderson fired it into the net.
“Carter just latched on to it as it bounced up for a volley, then rocketed into the net. It was a beautiful goal.”
The U-13 girls won every single game they played this weekend, winning the gold medal game 4-0.
Adams said the star player was Farrah Marzicola.
“The skill level she showed throughout the weekend—she scored a lot of goals for that team, but she’s not a selfish player. She understands the aspects of being on a team, but she can also get a goal when you’re looking for one.”
Adams said she’s one of the players who embodies the Whitecaps play style.
“She’s been with us since 2013, and she’s been benefiting from our program and showing other people on the team what it’s all about.”
According to Adams, the best goal of the weekend was scored during a game in which the U-14 Selects built up a multi-pass offence right from their own goal.
“It was fantastic, beautiful to watch,” he said.
Adams said this team is one of the most improved in the league, and they embody the new playing style he’s been pushing.
“These boys had a tough time last year, but they’ve come up unbelievably. Their coaches have really worked with them, and done a great job.”
The U-14 girls narrowly squeaked out a win with an exciting shoot-out against their local rivals from the Kootenay South team.
Adams said they played well throughout the tournament, but really had to struggle to end up on top.
“That was a seriously fought game. The girls were down 2-nil in the final and then they brought it back to 2-2, bringing it to a shootout.”
The winning goal was scored by Michaela Anderson.
The U14 Nelson Selects girls soccer team with gold medals won in the weekend’s Terry Walgren tournament. Sara Kelly photo.
Due to a lack of registration, the U-15 boys played down a level and defeated every team they faced.
But Adams was most impressed when they stepped down from the final game to let the U-14 boys’ teams go head-to-head.
“That was fantastic, a great gesture to the younger kids.”
He said the boys played admirably.
“They definitely looked good going forward. No team was going to break them.”
This week he’s arranged a match between the U-15 and U-14 boys, to make up for the lost opportunity.
“We’re going to get that showdown happening this week.”
The U-15 girls played up a league and emerged from the weekend with a perfect 4-0 record, with not a single goal being scored against them.
Adams said the final game, played against their U-16 counterparts, was heavily contested.
“It really could’ve gone either way,” Adams said.
Coach Paul Burkart was pleased with the outcome.
“The goal this weekend was to continue to play a defensive game but also create more scoring chances, and that is exactly what the girls did.”
Adams said he was particularly impressed by Abby Beauchamp, who scored the winning goal.
“They played with real freedom this weekend, and they managed to score some nice goals along the way.”
Adams said though the U-16 girls didn’t win overall, losing to the U-15 girls, they beat Invermere in their last game 7-0 to redeem themselves.
The most impressive player was Jesse Vondonselaar, who scored five goals in the first half of their final game. Adams said the team came together well.
“The positives from the weekend are they attacked really well right through until the end.”
Adams said the U-16 boys suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Cranbrook team, one of their main rivals.
“It was a very close 1-0 game game, and that was another one that could’ve easily gone either way,” he said.
“Their improvement from last year was evident, and they got themselves to the final. This is something they can build on so they can qualify for provincials,” he said.
Adams praised coach Dino Falcone and assistant coach Ryan Lewis, who is a former player.
“He’s one of our success stories, and it’s really great he’s been able to share his expertise with the players.”
The U-18 boys claimed a gold medal as well, with three wins and a tie over the course of the weekend.
According to coach Dan Szabo, the boys got off to a slow start on Friday while playing against the U-17 Kootenay South team. Then they came back during the second half, ultimately winning 4-1.
“Johnny Johnson on a rush down the left wing scored on a hard shot to even it up. That seemed to lift Nelson as they suddenly came to life,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon they cruised to a 5-0 win over Creston Valley, with Nolan DeRosa scoring only seconds into the contest.
That was followed by a tie-game against Columbia Valley on Saturday night, and then a win against Kootenay East on Sunday.
“Jake Anderson got the lone goal of the game, powering through a free kick in the 26th minute. Solid play continued for Nelson in the second half but no more goals in a 1-0 victory. With that win, Nelson claimed the gold medal.”
Adams said the U-18 girls are one of their most flourishing groups.
“They played fabulous, but they were met with disappointment in the final, where they lost in a shoot-out to Invermere.”
Adams said the girls were a great example to the younger kids.
“They’ve completely adopted the style of play. I wouldn’t say they’ve mastered it, but it’s all they think about, and you can see that in the way they play.”
Adams said the loss will inspire them to fight harder.
“Nelson had the chances, and they should’ve come out on top. I think they’ll use that going forward as we look toward provincials.”
Adams said all the teams are gearing up for provincials.
“We’re hoping, fingers crossed, that every one of our teams make it. This weekend’s showing demonstrated that everyone has a right to be there, the way they’re playing.”
Mini-tournaments will be held over the next two to three weeks to determine which teams will make the cut. And whether they make it or not, Adams said he couldn’t be more proud.
Photos by Tamara Hynd and Bob Hall