Countless hours of training and game experience has paid off for McKenzie Ricard, Alena Carlile, Kylie Erb and Caitlyn Spooner of the Pinnacles Football Club.
The four are extending their soccer careers at the post-secondary level.
Ricard, Carlile and Erb will suit up for the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, while Spooner is joining the Quest University Kermodes this fall.
The trio of rookie Timberwolves are excited to play in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
Ricard said it’s unbelievable.
“If you had asked me a year and a half ago, a year ago even, I would never have thought I would be playing on a university team, let alone a CIS team,” said Ricard, adding that PFC coaches saw potential in them. “I just didn’t think it was possible for me.”
Ricard, who won a provincial championship with Pinnacles FC two years ago and added another championship this past spring with the Princess Margaret Mustangs, said she is looking forward to playing in front of crowds of up to 300.
“I think it will be kind of cool to play in front of people,” said Ricard, who left with her teammates on Aug. 15.
Carlile also credited PFC coaches for dedicating time to develop female players and added it is important to see results for them and the players.
Carlile, a provincial champion in her Grade 10 season, recalls several training sessions at 5:30 a.m. before heading to school at Pen High and winter training. She has always enjoyed the sport, especially because of the friendships she has made.
“I just love the game,” said Carlile, who looks up to Canadian soccer sensation Christine Sinclair and her teammates because of their commitment.
Carlile, who will be living with her sister, as well as Ricard and Erb, said playing in the CIS will be different.
“I think the intensity of the training will be the difference,” she said. “The physical level, we will be smaller the first year. That will be hard. I think mainly just the fact that you always have to be consistent. It’s just that level of commitment all the time.”
Erb has some nerves about the change, but said it’s good because of the exposure to a higher level will motivate them to elevate their game.
“It’s exciting,” said Erb, a Summerland Secondary grad.
“It makes it feel like all the hard work has paid off. That we are reaching the next level.”
Erb, who plays fullback, said making this transition with her friends will help, but also said her new teammates are nice.
“I’m excited to see what happens,” said Erb, an under-16 provincial champ.
First and foremost what attracted Timberwolves coach Andy Cameron to the trio is that they are good students and athletes.
“We very much want our players to overachieve in the classroom and on the field,” said Cameron via email. “Secondly, based on discussions with Kylie, McKenzie and Alena, and my observations of their play, they play a similar style to the game as our university team.
“This is both a credit to them as players, but also speaks highly of the good work that is being done within the Pinnacles Football Club in Penticton. Individually, Kylie brings the pace to get into forwards into the offensive third from her fullback position,” he continued. “Alena brings athleticism and size to the central midfield and McKenzie is a tidy left-footed player who can provide quality distribution out of the back. I believe that all three players can contribute to the program quickly and I am looking forward to working with them.”
Last season the Timberwolves finished 1-9-2 in the Canada West Standings. Their season begins Sept.6-7 when they host the UBC-O Heat.
Spooner, who played with Ricard on that Mustangs championship squad, joins a Kermodes team that lost 1-0 in the PACWEST provincial championship in Nanaimo. The Kermodes bowed to the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, but the silver medal marks the Kermodes’ best result in their four-year playoff history. Spooner said the opportunity is absolutely incredible.
“I wasn’t playing to get to this level. I never thought that I would,” said Spooner. “Soccer has always been such a huge part of my life. To be able to continue on with that it is unbelievable for me.”
Spooner said the university, located in Squamish between Vancouver and Whistler, seemed like a good fit. Spooner said the coaching staff made her feel like she was at home and that they care about their players. It didn’t take long for Spooner to realize she made the right decision.
Heading into the 2014 season, Spooner enters a goalkeeping group which features third and fifth-year players.
“I’m not expecting to get much,” said Spooner of playing time, adding she’s really not sure what will happen.
Spooner is excited to grow as a player and sees the increase in intensity and skill. She wants to see how things expand from playing for PFC to the college level.
“Training has definitely been hard, in a good way,” she said.