Whitecaps FC women prepare for 2011 W-League season

As I watched the Whitecaps FC women train at Simon Fraser University, the first thing that hit me was the intensity that they were training at and how young the squad looked. Hubert Busby Jr.’s team are coming off of a successful season that saw them reach the W-League Championship final,  but they were disappointed to end the season with a 3-1 loss against Buffalo Flash. While reaching the final was nice, they’re clearly motivated to take that final step and add to the Whitecaps FC trophy case this season.

This year, coach Busby has put together a young, dynamic squad that is hungry for success. Preparations for the 2011 United Soccer Leagues season have began as the team gets set to play their home schedule throughout the province of British Columbia as part of the Whitecaps Women’s Soccer Series presented by Kia – in conjunction with the Girl’s Metro Soccer League (GMSL). Busby’s side open their home schedule on May 22 at Coquitlam’s Percy Perry Stadium, hosted by Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club.

There are currently 16 players in training camp, with another ten players arriving before the first game on May 15th at Victoria's Bear Mountain Stadium against new rivals Victoria Highlanders.

This year’s Whitecaps FC women’s team will have to contend with a more demanding schedule as there are seven divisional rivals and 14 games this year, compared to five opponents and ten games last season. The coaching staff, though, has made sure to build a deep squad to cope with the demands of this upcoming W-League season.

“I’m very excited with this squad of players that we’ve put together and I think our fans will really enjoy watching their style of play,” said Busby. “We have a number of proven players at this level as well as many younger players that have come through the Whitecaps FC system and are looking to prove themselves.”

The coaching staff is looking to a number of talented players to lead the team to a successful 2011 W-League season. Tiffany Weimer was the first player signed and will also serve as Whitecaps FC Women’s Ambassador. With an extensive playing career, she will be asked to take the squad’s younger players under her wing. Weimer has played all over the world, including stops in Brazil, Sweden and Finland as well as spells with Boston Breakers and FC Gold Pride in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) League. Her wealth of experience will be very valuable in the upcoming season.

Another player to look out for is Chinese Taipei international Tseng Shu-O, nicknamed AO.  A crafty player who scored twice against Whitecaps FC at Swangard Stadium last year, AO now brings her energetic play to Vancouver.

Fans will recognize a number of faces on this year’s squad as well, with ten players returning from last season’s Western Conference champions, while 16 players in total have previously spent time with Whitecaps FC. Among the returning fan favourites are Amy Vermeulen, who was second on the team with four goals and eight points last season, as well as Monica Lam-Feist, Shannon Woeller and Julie Armstrong. This is also truly a team that everyone in the province can be proud of, as 12 players on the team call BC home.

While including experienced players was one priority, Busby is also willing to give first team opportunities to younger players. “It is a Whitecaps FC philosophy to continue to develop our own players and we have some very exciting prospects coming through our system,” said coach Busby.

One such player who could make an impact this season is Abigail Raymer. Having just turned 18 years of age, the former Canadian U-17 women’s Player of the Year continues to impress Busby and the rest of the coaching staff, and has not looked out of place playing amongst much more experienced players.

Another talented player on the roster to come through the Prospects program is 18-year-old Nicole Setterlund. The former captain of the Canadian U-17 national team and Most Valuable player at the 2010 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship recently received her first call-up to the senior Canadian women’s national squad and is currently training with the team in Rome, Italy, as they prepare for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.

“Nicole continues to show great potential,” said Busby in reaction to Setterlund’s call-up. “She’s been able to succeed by remaining humble and maintaining her positive attitude towards the game."

Looking back on last year’s W-League season, Busby felt his team did not have enough attacking options, which he feels have been addressed and won’t be a concern this year. The squad has a number of very talented attacking players who can open up tight defenses and change the game in an instant with their scoring abilities. Among those talented players are Surrey, BC, native Sydney Leroux, as well as Victoria, BC’s Jaclyn Sawicki and Jenna Richardson of White Rock, BC.

With the pieces in place to make another run, the coaching staff and team look very focused and are excited to be starting their quest to bring home a third W-League championship to not only the city of Vancouver, but the entire province of British Columbia.

Tickets are now on sale for the 2011 Whitecaps Women’s Soccer Series presented by Kia. Individual match tickets are available for the affordable price of $12 and online at whitecapsfc.com/wtickets. Groups and teams can receive special ticket pricing and benefits by contacting Hugh Hamilton at 778.330.1360 or hhamilton@whitecapsfc.com. Tickets will also be available at the gate.

In 2011, defending W-League Western Conference champions and two-time W-League champions Whitecaps FC will play their regular season home schedule at seven different home venues throughout the province of British Columbia, as part of the Whitecaps Women's Soccer Series presented by Kia - in partnership with the Girls Metro Soccer League (GMSL).Whitecaps FC will kick off their 2011 home schedule on Sunday, May 22, at 4 p.m. PT, when they battle Seattle Sounders women at Percy Perry Stadium in Coquitlam, BC - hosted by Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club. Five days later, the 'Caps host Colorado Rush at Chilliwack's Exhibition Stadium at 7:00 p.m. PT - hosted by Chilliwack FC.

Whitecaps FC women’s and youth programs are made possible by the support of the Whitecaps Foundation. For information on the Whitecaps Foundation and how to become a donor, visit whitecapsfoundation.org.