(Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite continue their tough schedule on Sunday in Victoria when they face the Peninsula Co-op Highlanders in the semifinal of the Metro Women’s Soccer League (MWSL) Cup at the University of Victoria.
“The Highlanders have got a lot of mature players that have graduated university and back playing now within the club system now within Victoria,” said head coach Jesse Symons.
“They’re very well balanced around the whole field. Hopefully we have a good trip over and have a good performance on Sunday.”
Last weekend the 'Caps Girls Elite squad suffered a rare loss against NCAA Division I Seattle University, falling 3-1.
Despite the loss, the team learned very quickly that regardless of their age they were able to compete at the NCAA level, an invaluable experience for their development.
“The biggest thing is really for the young players to have opportunities to play against experienced players,” said Symons. “Hopefully they have a faster learning curve so they can be prepared for their future challenges whether it be University or national team opportunities.”
The 'Caps have had more trouble with the Highlanders than any other MWSL team this season, winning their first meeting 4-3 and the second meeting ending in the team’s lone draw, 1-1.
“The first game, 4-3, was sort of back and forth. Really the attacking players had a lot of good chances and both teams finished well. The last match was much tighter, we scored early on a penalty kick and they scored on a deflection off a corner,” said Symons.
“Both teams were well organized and there weren’t many chances we had from either side. There will probably be more of that on Sunday being a semifinal, we're looking forward to it.”
Symons feels his team’s confidence will play a big factor this weekend.
“Overall I think it’s about us going in and being confident of our abilities, trusting our system and putting in a good performance from minute one onwards. We're looking forward to it. We had two close games with them and I expect nothing different on Sunday.”
Though the crowd will be behind the Highlanders, Whitecaps’ Emma Fletcher will have a good cheering section in her hometown.
“Emma always enjoys going back and getting to play in front of her parents, family and friends. There’s usually a good turnout to watch Emma play because they don’t get to see her week in and week out,” said Symons of Fletcher.
“She really comes out and puts on a good performance; lately she has been playing extremely well. Hopefully she can get on the ball like she’s been doing the past few matches, get past them and give us a better shot at scoring some goals.”
The winner of the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite vs. Victoria Highlanders match will face either Surrey United SC or Richmond FC, who play each other in the other semifinal.