Carihi’s Abbie Simms

Carihi AA Girls host the ‘Big Dance’

There’s an excitement building at Carihi. In just one day the high school will be hosting the “pinnacle” of high school soccer.

Nearly 350 athletes from 16 school across B.C. will be descending on Carihi for the 2016 Girls AA High School Provincial Soccer Championship, which begins tomorrow and wraps up Saturday.

For John Jepson, who has coached soccer at Carihi since 1991 (before teams were ever tiered), he’s come full circle. Jepson was instrumental in establishing tiering in boys and girls soccer in 1994 and hosted the first ever boys AA provincial championship.

While this year will mark Carihi’s tenth trip to the big dance since 1996, the provincial title has eluded the school.

“Everyone dreams of winning it,” Coach Jepson said. “We came close before. We lost in a shootout in 2010. It was heartbreaking.”

This year’s senior girls squad could be the team to buck that trend. Going into provincials, the girls boast a 24-8-1 overall record (including tournament matches) and in six league games went undefeated. The girls scored 79 goals and allowed 37 on the season. They also have two tournament wins, placed fourth at the North Islands and finished third at the Islands, which would have qualified them for the provincials even if they hadn’t been guaranteed a spot as the host team.

“Playoffs were extremely close and we’re most delighted that we qualified on our own esteem,” Jepson said. “We’re not here because we’re hosting. We wanted to qualify and we did that. It’s every school kid’s dream to reach provincials.”

Emily Dreger, a member of the Carihi senior girls team, said the team has had an amazing year and would like to cap it off with a strong effort at provincials.

“This whole season has been such a success for the team,” Dreger said. “I’m very proud of all the girls and am looking forward to the B.C.’s. This is the best that the team has done since I’ve played for Carihi and no matter the outcome, this season will be unforgettable.”

Dreger’s teammate Charlie Borrie agrees.

“I am very lucky to have this opportunity and it has been an exciting season from winning an MVP at the Investors Group tournament, to placing fifth in Victoria, fourth in North (Islands) and just edging out Brentwood at Islands,” Borrie said. “I am very excited that Carihi is hosting Provincials.”

Jepson said the school is excited to welcome schools from across the province and acknowledged that hosting the provincials would not be possible without the help of dozens of volunteers who have stepped up to offer assistance. Jepson said many, including Ronaye Borrie, who is co-chair of the tournament, either have or have had daughters who have played for the Carihi soccer club at one time or another.

“We have two dozen volunteers who have given up many many hours,” said Jepson, including Bill Rasmussen who helped with the hosting application process and Stu Power who has recruited the personnel to officiate all the games. “There are so many people behind the scenes who have chipped in to a large degree.”

Aside from the games that will be split between the Carihi soccer fields and those at Willow Point Park, there will also be a ’70s-themed banquet as well as gold, silver and bronze presentations following the championship game on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the new Robron turf field.

“We’re all very excited,” Jepson said. “It’s one big family that puts it together. It’s not one person doing lots, it’s lots doing.

“It’s a real boost to the community. You’re bringing in over 300 people, often with families, who stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants,” Jepson added. “The ripple effects for the community are huge.”

Madison Ashcroft, team captain, said the entire team is excited to play host to schools from around the province.

“It is going to be amazing to have the best B.C. Senior girls all competing right here in Campbell River,” Ashcroft said. “We are all looking forward to representing our home town and showing teams what Riverites can do.”

Jepson said it’s a “great honour” to be given the opportunity to host and the team wants to represent Carihi with honour both on and off the field.

“We’re thrilled to be here,” Jepson said. “We want to try and win every game we play. This is the pinnacle. The whole three days on and off the pitch will be providing memories not just for our team but for all of us.

“We feel very confident we will do a super job because so many volunteers have offered their time and expertise.”

The four main sponsors of the tournament are: Cermaq, Marine Harvest, Ken Garroway of Investors Group and Intersport. The school has also received support from Carihi’s PAC, School District 72 and the City of Campbell River while the Masters men’s soccer club will help with the on-field components.

Carihi plays its first round-robin games on Thursday at 11 a.m and 3 p.m. and on Friday at 9 a.m. For more tournament information, game results and schedules, visit: 2016aaprovincials.weebly.com