Young Challenge searching for first win

Defending champs off to slow start to Pacific Coast Soccer League season

Okanagan Challenge's Juan Sanchez (left) battles a pair of Bellingham players

It’s not always easy being the defending champs.

Just ask the 2012 edition of the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Okanagan Challenge who are without a win five games into the new campaign.

The Challenge came up short in their first two home contests of the season, losing to Bellingham United and the Vancouver Thunderbirds over the weekend at the Apple Bowl.

With a huge turnover from last year’s squad and the youngest roster in the PCSL—an average age of around 20—the Challenge are experiencing some growing pains.

“It’s a very competitive league, the physicality of it takes some time to get used to for our younger guys, but they’re developing and gaining experience with each game,” said captain Dustin Luck, who is sidelined with a knee injury and is helping coach the team. “We’ve had teams before that have taken time to come together, so we just have to stick with it. The guys just have to keep their heads up, play hard and keep building. There’s still time to turn things around.”

On Saturday, the Challenge scored first at the four-minute mark to take a 1-0 lead but Bellingham roared back for a 5-2 victory.

Zach Donaldson-Hall and Enzo Paal scored the goals for Okanagan.

On Sunday, the Challenge were better against the Thunderbirds but still came away with a 3-1 defeat. Donaldson-Hall scored the lone marker on a PK.

“We played them well and if we could have got a couple of breaks, it may have been different,” said Luck, one of 10 players on the roster who has played for the UBCO Heat.  “It’s a learning process and I can see the guys are already getting better.”

The Challenge are on the road this weekend as they visit the Victoria Highlanders Saturday, 7 p.m. at Hampton Park.

Okanagan’s next home action in Saturday, June 9 at UBCO against Coquitlam.