Vancouver Whitecaps FC women kick off their 2011 United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League campaign on Sunday, May 15, away to new-found local rivals Victoria Highlanders FC. The match kicks off at 4 p.m. PT at Bear Mountain Stadium in Langford, BC, on Vancouver Island.
Head coach Hubert Busby Jr. is looking to build on a successful 2010 campaign, in which Vancouver went undefeated to claim the Western Conference title, before falling in the championship final to Buffalo Flash. However, some rebuilding is also required, as several of last year's key players are committed to Canada's national team preparing for this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup.
Among the new additions who might figure in this match are American attacker Tiffany Weimer, imposing defender Malloree Enoch, and Chinese Taipei international midfielder Tseng Shu-O.
Players with previous Whitecaps FC experience include Canadian defenders Lexi Marton and Shannon Woeller, goalkeeper Erin McNulty, forward Amy Vermeulen, and United States international striker Sydney Leroux.
Also available for the 'Caps are a couple of Victoria products in talented teenage forwards Abigail Raymer and Nahiomy Ortiz.
This is Victoria's first season of W-League play, as last year the team competed in the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL), where they finished in second place behind Whitecaps FC U-18 Prospects, with a record of 12W-3L-1D. They face a tough start as an expansion side, hosting Seattle Sounders women on Saturday night, then Vancouver on Sunday afternoon. Victoria are the second British Columbia-based team to join the W-League following Whitecaps FC.
Head coach Dave Dew is no stranger to the W-League, as he coached Whitecaps FC's first three seasons from 2001 to 2003, amassing an overall record of 36W-4L-4D.
Victoria's star player is striker Liz Hansen, who was top scorer of the PCSL in 2008 and 2010. Fellow attacker Paige Scott is also dangerous, as is former University of Victoria star Kendra Flock, who was on the Whitecaps FC roster last season. Another former Whitecaps FC player is W-League veteran Amelie Mercier. In goal, Whitecaps FC Prospects graduate Gurveen Clair will challenge established keepers Tanya Jones and Stephanie Parker.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams. However, in PCSL play last season, Whitecaps FC Prospects swept Victoria, winning 2-1 on Vancouver Island and 3-1 at home. Seven players from that Prospects squad have now graduated to the Whitecaps FC first team roster.
In W-League play, Whitecaps FC have a perfect 5W-0L-0D record against fellow Canadian sides, outscoring them 16-2. Their last all-Canadian encounter was the 2006 W-League championship final against Ottawa Fury at Swangard Stadium, won 3-0 by Vancouver.