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Lakeland indoor soccer teams combine forces

New year bring new tournaments for Lakeland soccer teams

LAKELAND - There is some good news being kicked around when it comes to the lower-than-expected rosters in the Lakeland Soccer Association this indoor season.

Mid-way through the season, U15 to U17 community teams in Bonnyville, Cold Lake and Lac La Biche forced to play as mixed teams in the Lakeland District because of reduced numbers on individual boys and girls teams, are combining forces to play as boys and girls teams under the Lakeland banner. The combined Lakeland U-15 and U-17 teams are making an impact.

The Lakeland U-15 girls team, with players from Bonnyville, Lac La Biche, Cold Lake and St. Paul, took the gold medal spot at the Polar Cup tournament in Edmonton that ran from Dec. 27-29. The girls beat Sherwood Park and Edmonton's Lago Lindo in their pool to take the top spot.

The U-17 boys Lakeland combined team finished with a silver medal at the same event, playing to a 3-3 draw in their first game against Beaumaris, losing 9-4 to Leduc in their second match and winning 4-2 against Terwilliger in their last match.

Not all the combined teams finished on the Polar Cup podium, however, as U-17 girls came away with a one win, one loss and one tie. The U-15 combined boys team from the Lakeland also had a tough division, dropping two of their games by a single goal — losing 5-4 to Penhold and 6-5 to Sherwood Park, and a 5-1 drumming by Crestwood.

Locally, the Lac La Biche U-13 boys and the U-9 boys used the Polar Cup as a good learning experience as they prepare for local tournaments and provincial events coming in the new year. 

Next up

Lakeland teams will be competing in a friendly, regional tournament in Bonnyville on Jan. 8 and 9, part of the season's home-tournament league-play schedule.

Young soccer players across the Lakeland will also be gearing up for the FC Edmonton Memorial Cup at the end of January, the Slush Cup in Edmonton in the first week of March and Alberta Soccer Association Provincials on the March 11 weekend. The location for the provincials has yet to be announced — but thanks to the merging of the local teams, which eliminates the need for zone qualifiers, U15 to U17 players from across the Lakeland know they will be playing.

"Every player registered in these age groups would get to go to provincials, which is pretty awesome and a great experience in itself," says Lakeland Soccer District director Glenda Bouvier, explaining that the COVID-affected season in 2020 is the main reason for the lower team numbers this year.

"COVID-19 has upended our soccer league."

Three main ways that the pandemic's lasting effects are still tackling the league are by the year away from activity, a reduction in registrations due to COVID uncertainty, and volunteer absences.

"Our volunteer base organization is really struggling in finding volunteers to fill our many open positions, from our volunteer executive to coaching positions and even to our paid referee positions," says Bouvier, explaining that the new team formats are hoped to carry the sport through the uncertain pandemic times.

"We hope that this combined format will encourage our older players to continue participating in the game they love... We feel that in time, this framework will support long term growth and viable options to retain players within every Lakeland community."