Whitecaps FC women kick off their season Sunday in Victoria

'Caps begin quest for third W-League championship

This Sunday, will mark the first match of the 2012 United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as the women kick off their campaign on Vancouver Island against provincial rivals Victoria Highlanders FC. Last season was Victoria’s first in the W-League, with Whitecaps FC winning both encounters against the Highlanders, a 2-0 triumph on opening day on the island and a 5-0 victory on Canada Day in Richmond.

There is a lot of excitement around the start of the season, as the W-League will be the top professional women’s soccer league in North America this summer after the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league had to suspend operations for 2012. Some of the best women’s soccer talent on the planet will be playing throughout the W-League this season, especially in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, making this perhaps the most exciting W-League season to date.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

With the Canadian women’s national team holding Residency training camp in Vancouver, several key Olympians have been made available to Whitecaps FC for a few W-League games. Four of those members will be looking to play key roles for Whitecaps FC in the season opener against Victoria Highlanders FC this Sunday, as defenders Melanie Booth and Shannon Woeller (pictured), midfielder Chelsea Stewart, and striker Chelsea Buckland will be keen to both help the ‘Caps start the season off on the right foot, while also staying sharp for their Olympic preparations.

“I think the Canadian women’s national team players will add a lot to the fold,” noted Jesse Symons, Whitecaps FC women’s head coach. “They’re a dynamic group of players and I hope they will complement our group nicely.”

Adding to the pedigree of the squad are several experienced WPS players, including midfielders Jenny Jeffers and Danielle Johnson, and Hawaiian striker Mele French. The trio will look to be a steady and calming influence on this young and talented ‘Caps squad all season. “Fans can expect a high quality level of play from this squad,” said Johnson. “We are going to play at an exceptional pace, be creative and especially goal hungry.”

VICTORIA HIGHLANDERS FC

The Highlanders return for their second season in the W-League, bringing another young team mainly made up of local university players. Although Victoria may be a bit on the green side, head coach Jesse Symons expects a hard fought match. “They’re a young squad who will be looking to make an impact early in the season,” said Symons. “This is a bit of rivalry match with the proximity of both teams, so we want to come out strong.”

Expect an exciting match, as the Highlanders will look to put on a good show in their home opener against a Whitecaps FC club that made the W-League Championship Final Four last year.

An eager ‘Caps squad will hope this game starts a journey back to the playoffs, and perhaps compete for a third W-League championship

 “We want to compete against the best competition,” said goalkeeper Justine Bernier. “We’re going to try to be extremely competitive this season and that starts this Sunday.”

NEXT UP

After this Sunday’s match, the ‘Caps women will prepare for their home opener next Friday, May 18, against Colorado Rush at McLeod Athletic Park in Langley. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. PT. To purchase tickets, visit whitecapsfc.com/wtickets or contact Hugh Hamilton at 778.330.1360 or hhamilton@whitecapsfc.com.

As in the past two seasons, Whitecaps FC will play their W-League home matches in various communities in British Columbia as part of the Whitecaps Women’s Soccer Series presented by Kia. Find the full Whitecaps FC 2012 W-League schedule HERE.