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Red Hot Selects book their ticket to nationals

Undefeated U16 girls soccer team headed to Calgary this fall after defeating Prince George in Provincial Cup final

The Richmond Red Hot Selects booked their ticket to the nationals in convincing fashion and there's a good chance they will be back for more.

The Under 16 girls Metro team continued their unbeaten (26-0-1) season with a 4-0 victory over the Prince George Kodiaks in the Provincial Cup final on Saturday at Hugh Boyd -- earning the opportunity to represent B.C. at the BMO National Club Championships in Calgary come early October.

The result was hardly a surprise given how Coastal teams have typically dominated the "A" Cup competitions over the years. Yet, with B.C. Soccer's changing landscape at the rep level, this could have been the Selects' final chapter of glory on home turf.

Starting next season, the Girls Metro Soccer League will be greatly impacted from new opportunities for the province's top players. The expanded Whitecaps Residency Program now offers full-time spots to the top dozen players or so in each age group, while the B.C. Premier Soccer League (High Performance), for ages U13 to U18, is now considered the top tier in the province.

With a talent-loaded roster of just 12 players, including five currently playing for provincial teams, the Red Hot Selects' status for next season seemed uncertain at best. However, with the girls having only two seasons remaining of youth eligibility, the consensus was to keep the squad somewhat intact.

Underage player Justine Do has accepted an invite to Whitecaps Residency, while Summer Clarke and Ashley Chen are still contemplating the same offer for U17. Still, Selects head coach Clive Clarke has moved ahead with plans for next season, already adding four new players from a recent tryout session.

He will be putting together a schedule that will feature a number of U.S. tournaments to expose the girls' to college scouts for potential scholarship opportunities.

"When we went down to Las Vegas, it kind of opened our eyes to what it is all about," said Clarke of the university recruiting process. "There is already interest (in our players) and I am looking at some top level tournaments where there will be more exposure for them."

Having not played a significant game since April 30, the Selects got off to a tentative start before Summer Clarke took over. The talented striker opened the scoring when she caught the Prince George goalkeeper cheating off her line and, what was meant to be a cross, deflected into the net. Minutes later, Clarke struck again, neatly beating two defenders then delivering a clinical finish to the top corner from 14-yards out.

The 2-0 halftime lead was more than enough with insurance goals coming from Natasha Angus and Amrit Berar, while goalkeeper Joscelyn Wallace earned the shutout.

"We had only been together for 10 days and you could see our rhythm was a bit off at the start," added Clive Clarke. "I think it was also on their minds that it was a one game playoff that they were expected to win. The girls might have felt the pressure a bit and were playing not to lose more than to win."

The Selects roster also features: Monika Leverasky Brenda Murillo, Madison Higginbotham, Alura Castle, Alyssa Graeme and Jap Nagra.