A new soccer league for U14 and U15 boys and girls is being embraced by the players and parents.
Just three weeks into its inaugural campaign, the Vancouver Island Premier League, comprised of around six teams in each division, from one end of the rock to the other, has already established a solid foothold.
According to Oceanside Youth Soccer president Dave Reynolds, the VIPL “is a Vancouver Island initiative,” a joint effort between the top three Victoria Clubs (their ‘gold’ league teams) and a regional team comprised of players from Ladysmith to Port including Oceanside, and another regional team of players from Courtenay, Campbell River and Powell River.
“Essentially were calling it a Tier 2 league… it’s to give the kids an option other than house — it’s an alternative to Metro that allows them to stay on the Island,” Reynolds explained when asked why the change. “We decided this is a better route to go,” said the eight year OYS executive, adding “a lot less travel and they still get to play good calibre of soccer with the Victoria clubs.”
Reynolds said what cleared the way for the VIPL was when Victoria’s top clubs committed to the league and to coming up Island to play.
The decision passed unanimously when voted on by all the upper Island clubs.
The mid-Island teams are all known as the VIPL Storm, and the upper-Island teams are the Riptide.
The U14 Storm Boys team lost their league opener to the Saanich Fusion two weekends ago in Nanaimo and the U14 Girls Storm beat the Victoria Bays 5-1 at Serauxman Stadium in Nanaimo that same weekend.
The U15 Boys Storm made their home debut two weeks ago, a 3-1 loss to the Bays and were back it at QB Rec Fields last Sunday in a hard-fought loss to Saanich. The U15 Girls Storm, coached by longtime local high school coach Larry Steffanek, were shut out in their first game to Peninsula and dropped a 4-2 final to the Bays last Sunday in Nanaimo.
Each team plays between 12-15 league games plus exhibition games. Their season culminates with playoffs in April.
“They’re really liking it,” Reynolds, and assistant coach with the U14 Boys, said when asked how the new league is being received. “It’s very well run, very well organized and they’re happy they don’t have to leave the Island to play some really good competition.”
It is, said local VIPL rep and U14 Storm Girls assistant coach John Lee, “the way of the future.”
The U14 Girls team pencils in seven local U13 Girls who are playing up; there are two Oceanside players on the U14 Boys, four locals on the U15 Boys team, and four on the U15 Girls.
“It’s going to be very much a learning year for the players,” he said, “as we have many that are playing up in age group.”
“This is a pilot project for the first year,” he added, pointing out “it’s not a full blown every age group yet, we’re trying to work the bugs out. It’s the first time we’ve actually had an official youth soccer league that includes both the lower and upper Island soccer associations, so it’s a positive step forward that’s for sure.”
The plan is to expand the VIPL next year he said to include U14s right up through U18.
The U14 Boys Storm take on the Riptide in Powell RIver on Sunday. The U14 Girls play the Riptide in Comox. The U15 Boys and Girls teams both have a bye. The teams are off Thanksgiving weekend, the U14 Girls Storm are in action at QB Rec Fields Saturday, Oct. 15 at high noon against the Fusion, and the U14 Boys are in QB on Sunday against the Bays.