Kamloops, BC—Being caught in a ‘Riptide’ is not a good thing usually. For the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack women’s soccer program, it has proven to be something positive.
The WolfPack and head coach Kelly Shantz have looked to Vancouver Island to sign three members of the Upper Island Riptide U-18 rep team.
Forward Abbie Simms, center midfield Camryn Curts and center back Olivia Bates of the Riptide have become the WolfPack’s third, fourth and fifth recruit signings for the 2017 Canada West season.
Simms attends Carihi Secondary in Campbell River while Bates goes to G.P. Vanier Secondary and Curts will graduate from Mark R. Isfeld Secondary both in Courtenay.
“It was a happy surprise,” said Shantz as he recalled how he first saw the three play. “I was at a Starfire Showcase in November. There were five or six Canadian teams along with the U.S. clubs. I watched the Upper Island Riptide. I was initially looking at just one player but then saw they had four or five potential USport athletes.”
Simms is a 5’8” forward who is described by Shantz as a hard worker. “She is one of those kids you hope develops. She works so hard. She loves the game. She is passionate about the sport. Constantly working out to improve. She works her tail off out there. She has great foot skills and speed and has a good sense around the ball. She will need to refine her touch around the ball and skill base to compete for a full time job for five years with our team. She’s up for the task though.”
The WolfPack coach compares her to alumni Shantelle Cooper and Abby McAuley. “They knew they had to work hard for the full 90 minutes to compete. They were always engaged and focused on the game when they even didn’t have the ball. She is very similar to them.”
“I think Kelly’s philosophy is really great,” said Simms, who is undecided about what she will take at Thompson Rivers. “He told me how he pushes his players. I think that is important and that is what I am looking for in a coach.”
The 5’5” Bates has ties to Kamloops. Her mother Marla attended Thompson Rivers University. Her father used to live in the city. She is a center back. “They had an influence on my decision for sure, but I really liked how welcoming the team was when I met them,’ she says.
“She is ‘cheeky’ which something I really, really like,” Shantz explains. “She is very skilled with her feet. She has great vision of the field and very perceptive in how she makes her passes and how she makes her plays. She is very aware of the players around her. She makes a lot of ‘cheeky passes and plays’ that are very slick out of the back. She had been a midfielder for years before moving to the back.”
He adds that finding players who are multi-faceted are always a bonus. Shantz says she will be a perfect addition to returning vets Cassie Morris (Kamloops, BC) and Natalie Verdiel (Powell River, BC). Shantz says Bates possesses the foot skills to make her adjustment to Canada West that much easier.
“This will be a huge step for me,” Bates said about moving to university soccer. “Living away from home, balancing school and soccer will be challenging but I think I’m ready for it.” Bates is looking at TRU’s nursing program after taking general courses the first year.
Curts has been playing soccer since age four although she played a lot of sports growing up. The 5’6” attacking center mid will be taking general studies with an eye to going into athletic therapy in the future. “I feel I have good vision on the field and produce nice through balls. “
“I can see why Camryn is where she is on the field,” Shantz states. “She runs the show. She’s not tall but is very athletic and strong on the ball. She runs well, hits the ball with authority and distributes the ball with great vision. She has a bit of a temperament. She doesn’t like losing the ball and wants to win it back. She controls the midfield. I am excited to mix her in with our other midfielders like Keenan Degan and Kindra Maricle (both Kamloops, BC). Camryn will go more forward than Keenan and Kindra though.”
After signing six players who came from one team—the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association U-18 squad—last summer, the obvious comparisons to recruiting ‘in bulk’ from the same organization has to be broached. Is this déjà vu all over again? “With smaller communities, there are pockets of talented athletes in the same age group occasionally,” Shantz explains. “so there is some déjà vu. It is fun for them (the players too). Three of them will come to training camp and school and experience coming to a new city, a new team and a new school together. That will help them adjust for sure.”
Shantz says the fact the three have played together since they were 12 years old will instantly establish a chemistry if they wind up on the field at the same time. “That might not happen as freshmen, but having that experience can only help if it occurs.”
“We have always clicked,” Bates said. “We work really well together and have great communication.”
Simms also felt it’s a ‘happy coincidence’ that the three teammates and friends wound up in Kamloops and TRU together. “We have been together for seven years. It’s kind of crazy. We have always been great friends. It is so cool that we are going to be able to continue our soccer careers together.”
“I chose TRU because of the atmosphere of the program,” Curts says. “But pushing my decision to come here was also based on the fact I knew some of the girls here and both Abbie and Olivia had already committed. It’s nice for all of us to be here.”
THROW INS: Bates, Simms and Curts have ties to the WolfPack. They have played with or are familiar with returning veterans Verdiel and Ricci Leitch (both Powell River, BC).
Verdiel says they will be welcomed additions to the squad: “Camryn is a very strong player. Abbie is a quick winger and we will need that a lot because we need to play like that as a team. Her strong foot and presence up front will be great. I am excited to see Olivia play. I understand she has some pretty slick moves.”
Simms is enthusiastic about being a part of the WolfPack ‘rebuild’ program. As far as being involved in the TRU Athletics programs community initiative: “I am excited about the chance to be a role model. A bit nervous but always enthusiastic about moving forward.”
Curts echoes the fact that turning a program around is a challenge she is looking forward to. “I like being a part of the rebuilding process rather than joining an established team. There is something satisfying about being a part of something good.”
The three girls have played in Kamloops before at the KYSA Slurpee Cup. Their Riptide team is planning to finish their season at the 2017 edition of the tournament in May.
The three join other committed signees: Nevada Woods (NorKam Secondary) and Emily Mann (South Kamloops Secondary) of Kamloops.
The WolfPack open up their 2017 Canada West training camp in mid-August.