UBC Okanagan has joined forces with the Okanagan Challenge Soccer Club to assist in the development of the top level men’s soccer players in the region.
The Okanagan Challenge will continue to play in the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL), a national amateur men’s soccer league, which features teams from British Columbia and the Northwestern United States.
The goal of the University and the Challenge arrangement is to give UBC Okanagan Heat players an opportunity to continue to develop in a quality league. This years’ version of the Okanagan Challenge will be a mix of UBC Okanagan players and players that have been part of the Okanagan Challenge in previous years. Players from previous years with the Challenge will be given the opportunity to once again make the squad.
An important part of this venture is the placement of Heat head coach, Dante Zanatta as bench boss of the Okanagan Challenge. Zanatta sees this arrangement as way to keep a solid core of the University’s players together longer, as the PCSL season runs from May until August. When the PCSL season ends, Heat players will head right into their university training camp. University Soccer season runs September through the end of October.
Zanatta is excited about the upcoming season. “This is a great opportunity for us to work with a wonderful organization that has a strong history of providing a high-quality soccer program to the community. The arrangement will allow me to be part of that tradition and at the same time continue to develop the UBC Okanagan players for a longer period of time.” says Zanatta. “The players can come into the University season fit. They can come into the season understanding the systems of play and the style we want. Essentially, it gives me an opportunity to work with the players in a strong competitive environment over a longer period of time.”
Zanatta looks forward to working with the Challenge, adding: “The work the Challenge has done in the past has to be commended and applauded. When you look at high-level soccer in the region this arrangement is a natural fit. It is a win-win for both the Challenge and UBC Okanagan, and will only help with the university’s goal of getting it into Canada West. We need to continue to build the soccer program so that they will be competitive in Canada.”
Maria Ridgewell, Okanagan Challenge Club President and her Board Members are happy with this arrangement. In his first year coaching UBC Okanagan, Zanatta did a great job in developing the Heat program and taking it to new heights, culminating in the most successful men’s soccer team in school history. Zanatta coached the team to the provincial championships for the first time ever, coming away with a bronze medal, also the first in school history. The Challenge has enjoyed considerable success in the 22 years of completion, most recently in 2009 they were Triple Crown Champions, in 2010 Silver Medal Finalists and 2011 PCSL Champions, with current Heat player, Dylan Abbott, (1st year, Defender, Salmon Arm, BC), scoring two goals in the championship final. Ridgewell said, “to quote Zanatta, it is a win-win for both the Challenge and UBC Okanagan, and especially the players”.
The Challenge was founded in 1989, a registered not-for-profit society with the aim of providing a level of senior soccer not previously available in Kelowna. (for more information on the Challenge visit their website at www.okanaganchallenge.ca)
Tryouts will start in early April, most practices will be held at Nonis Sports Field, on UBC’s Okanagan Campus, home of the Heat. Home games will be held at the Apple Bowl, home of the Okanagan Challenge and also at Nonis Sports Field. Check out the Okanagan Challenge website for details.