A Winnipeg youth soccer team is hoping to kick-up a storm at a prestigious national tournament next month.
Portage Trail Soccer Club U-14 Girls (PTSC Fusion) will represent Manitoba at the Canadian Soccer Association Club Championships in Vaughan, Ont. from Oct. 3 to 8, where the provincial champions will take on teams from across the country.
Managed by Dave Hamlin and coached by Cory Walpole and club official Tony Kinnarath, the team consists of players largely from the west Winnipeg area, including Charleswood, St. James and Westwood, as well as Headingley.
Walpole — who is cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances at nationals — said the strength and unity of the team is partly due to the fact most of the players have grown up playing with or against each other.
"There’s diversity in the group, so everybody brings a different skill base," he said, noting there’s an "open boundaries" rule this season, which allows clubs to field two players from outside their catchment area.
"The advantage is we’ve got a very competitive group of kids that are hungry to do their best and try to win. Manitoba has medalled at the nationals in the past, but not often, as the larger provinces have more players to choose from."
Forward Isabela Vergara, 14, is hungry to compete against different provinces and hopes the experience will make the team even stronger and maybe present some new opportunities.
"I’m really excited. This is a huge opportunity for us. I’m hoping there will be scouts there, so hopefully one or two of us might get noticed," said Vergara, who lives in East Kildonan and attends Glenlawn Collegiate.
"It will definitely be challenging playing against the best teams in Canada, but it’s a great opportunity for us to become better soccer players."
Samantha Ford, 14, who plays attack or on defence, said Olympic bronze medallist and West Kildonan native Desiree Scott has motivated a whole generation of youth soccer players to work to achieve their goals.
"She’s an inspiration. I watched the Olympics a lot and I look up to her. She’s a role model and it makes you want to try harder and be like that," said Ford, who lives in Charleswood and goes to St. Mary’s Academy.
Despite all of its success, the team needs to raise approximately $20,000 to pay for the trip to Ontario — so organizers are holding an empty bottle and can fundraiser and social on Sat., Sept. 22.
Bottles and cans can be dropped off in the parking lot of Sturgeon Heights Community Centre (210 Rita St.) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. that day and the social will follow in the evening.
"They need to stay in a hotel for almost a week, there are the flights, food and transportation costs," said soccer mom and volunteer fundraiser Marianne Cerilli.
The Wolseley resident hopes community members across Winnipeg kick-in and donate to the cause.
"It’s a great way to support up-and-coming athletes. We want to broaden the net and not just rely on the usual family and friends. It’s a chance for lots of people actively involved with clubs or teams to further support our young athletes," Cerilli said.
For more information, email email@example.com. To learn more about PTSC, visit www.portagetrailsc.com.