The summer’s wildfires did not stop Williams Lake U13 Storm female soccer players from capturing gold at the Twin Anchor tournament held in Salmon Arm the last weekend of August.
“Our team really hadn’t touched the ball since July 9,” said team manager Kelvin Parent. “We had one little drop-in night here in town when the smoke cleared enough and some of the girls came out but not all of them.”
When the team arrived in Salmon Arm, Storm was given a practice session which Parent said was a nice gesture.
“They didn’t have to do that as a host city,” Parent said, noting while Vernon had seen its share of smoke during the summer, it was smoke free for days leading up to and during the tournament.
Coach Nara Riplinger said the team played its first game against Salmon Arm on the Saturday morning.
The game was tied one-all after Salmon Arm got an “own goal,” off Storm player Taylor Fitzgerald, Riplinger said, noting Keira Vermeulen was named player of the game.
In the second game, played against Vernon United, which Riplinger said was “quite a chippy match,” Storm won 3-2.
Keira scored with two penalty shots, Madigan Riplinger scored the third goal and was named player of the game.
In their third game, played against SurDel —a team comprised of many younger players — Storm came away winning 3-1.
“Our girls dominated the game, but they had difficulty scoring,” Riplinger said.
They Lutters scored and then SurDel got a goal. Kendra Parent, who was named player of the game, scored the second goal, followed by Brooklyn Carriere notching the third goal.
Going into the final game against Vernon, Storm’s players were nervous, Parent said.
“Vernon scored right off the bat and then that’s all they scored,” he said.
Keira scored the first goal with a penalty shot and Madigan got a second goal with assistance from Grace Turner, giving the team a 2-1 win and the gold medal.
“Taylor Fitzgerald was named player of the final game,” Parent said. “She played defence, which is a different position for her, because our main defender wasn’t able to come to the tournament. Taylor filled in that spot quite well and just got better and better at it.”
The team also attended provincials in White Rock the weekend of July 6.
“We lost three and won one game, but all the games were really close and the girls played quite competitively,” Riplinger said. “Unfortunately we finished seventh out of eighth, but we are definitely looking forward to taking that group of girls back in the coming years for sure.”
Riplinger said she and the team’s other coach, Grant Gustafson, coached together more than 20 years ago.
“We have very similar coaching philosophies and with both of our daughters the same age, we are excited to work with this group of girls,” she added. “Kelvin is an efficient and positive manager who not only understands competitive sport, but also kids. He kept parents, players, and coaches organized, fed, and entertained.”
New players are joining every year and the team welcomes new players for next season, Riplinger added.
“This season between CYSL games in Prince George and Quesnel, and three tournaments, everyone had the opportunity to compete out of town.”
The team was scheduled to play in the Kelowna Summer Heat tournament in August but had to withdraw due to the uncertainty of our player commitment due to the wildfires, Riplinger said, adding the tournament ended up being cancelled due to the poor air quality in the Okanagan.
Describing the players as dedicated, she said they practice hard and encourage everyone.
“They do what is asked of them, even playing positions they don’t usually play or sitting on the bench more than they would like. They are entertaining off the field and have made friendships that will last.”