There was a time just after the turn of the century when the Central Alberta High School Soccer League was struggling to find boys’ teams.
That’s no longer the case.
In fact the boys’ side of the league is stronger than ever with 10 teams entered this season with eight on the girls’ side.
“For whatever reason there’s been a lot of interest in the league in the last few years, especially on the boys’ side, while the girls’ division has remained about the same since they started,” explained league commissioner and Lindsay Thurber boys’ head coach Rene Vandervlis.
The league got underway in 1999 with six boys’ teams. The girls’ division started in 2000 and remained steady through the years with around seven teams.
By 2001 there were only four boys’ teams — Lindsay Thurber, Notre Dame, Hunting Hills and Lacombe — and in 2002 it was down to the three Red Deer schools and the boys took a year off. Lacombe returned in 2003 and slowly, but surely, the boys’ league continued to grow to where it is today.
And now there’s even more interest.
“There was talk River Glen was thinking of getting into the league this year, but they’re a smaller school and to find the players they may have to use some Grade 8s and that’s tough when they’re playing against Grade 12s,” said Vandervlis. “But both Alix and Eckville are smaller schools and they do it, so who knows it may still work out.”
Camrose was previously in the league, but dropped out last season while West Central of Rocky Mountain House has also been in the league.
“You never know when a school may want back in, but the problem is we can only handle so many teams,” Vandervlis said. “If it gets over 12 it’ll be tough to find fields and officials to handle the games.”
However, there may be a possibility of the league dividing into tiers if there’s enough interest, according to Vandervlis.
“But that’s down the road,” he said.
The three Red Deer schools, Lacombe and Central Alberta Christian High School of Lacombe, H.J. Cody of Sylvan Lake, Alix and Eckville compete in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions. Olds and Innisfail, which is new to the league this season, are also on the boys’ side.
The league begins April 30 — the Red Deer teams play their home games at Lindsay Thurber and the Collicutt Centre — and concludes with the playoff tournament, June 13 at Edgar Park.
The girls’ play a round-robin with the top four teams advancing to the A playoffs and the bottom four to the B playoffs.
The boys’ division will be divided into two pools with Lindsay Thurber, Notre Dame, Olds, CACHS and Innisfail in Pool A and he other five in Pool B.
Teams play a round-robin in each pool and two games against teams in the other pool. The top team in each pool advances to the A-side playoffs with the winners of the second vs. third cross-over games. The two cross-over losers and the fourth-place teams compete in the B playoffs while the two fifth-place teams meet in a placement game.
“It gives everyone at least eight games,” said Vandervlis.
The Hunting Hills boys and the Notre Dame girls go into the league as defending champions.