Youthful Challenge a work in progress

Pacific Coast Soccer League still looking for first win but coach sees weekly improvement in young lineup

Okanagan Challenge keeper Colin Hasick deflects the ball away from a Coquitlam attacker

Okanagan Challenge keeper Colin Hasick deflects the ball away from a Coquitlam attacker

With one of the youngest, most inexperienced rosters in the Pacific Coast Soccer League, the 2012 season has been a work in progress for the Okanagan Challenge.

The local men’s squad remains winless (0-7-1) at the halfway mark of the regular campaign after a pair of losses on its home pitch over the weekend.

Still, as much as Dante Zanatta detests the concept of losing, the Challenge’s head coach is focused on the bigger picture, and the long-term development of local players.

Zanatta and manager Carson Gill made a conscious decision to stock the roster this year predominantly with Okanagan talent, many of them from the UBC Okanagan Heat varsity squad as the two programs work together for the betterment of soccer in the valley.

“I don’t take losing very well as people around me know, but we have to be realistic,” said Zanatta, who also coaches the Heat. “We have a group of 19-year-olds who are just learning how to play at this level, this is a very competitive league.

“In the past, we’ve had players from all over, down into the States and we chose not to go that way. We want to give our players here a chance to play and it’s going to bode well for the future. Our kids will get experience, and a year or two down the road we should see the results.”

On Saturday at UBCO’s Nonis Field, in rainy conditions, the Challenge dropped a 3-2 decision to Coquitlam Metro-Ford. Andrew Hauser and Zach Donaldson-Hall scored for the Challenge who drew even at 2-2 in the 75th minute, only to watch Coquitlam score the game winner 35 seconds later.

“The encouraging thing is we played some good football, we pass the ball around well and we attack well,” said Zanatta. “The problem is the guys just switch off mentally at times. We can’t fault the guys on their work, because that part of the game is certainly there. We’re young and inexperienced.”

On Sunday, Khalsa Sporting Club took care of the business with a 6-3 win over the Okanagan squad at Nonis Field. Dave Hill, with a pair, and Zach Donaldson-Hall with his second of the weekend tallied for the Challenge.

While making the playoffs are no longer a realistic goal, Zanatta said there is plenty for his Challenge to play for and to accomplish over the last eight games of the season.

“We have a goal to continue to improve, week in and week out. We want to win the second half of the season.”

One of the club’s veteran leaders, Carson Gill, left Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury and didn’t return for the remainder of the weekend. Gill is doubtful for this weekend as the Challenge visit the UBC Thunderbirds on Saturday, and Coquitlam on Sunday.

Okanagan women…

Okanagan FC failed to score a goal in two games on the road in Pacific Coast Soccer League Premier women’s action.

On Saturday in Cloverdale, Surrey United shutout Okanagan 3-0.

On Sunday in Vancouver, Okanagan FC (2-4-1) fell 4-0 to TSS Academy.

The Okanagan women will have this weekend off, before returning to action Saturday, June 23 at Simon Fraser against the Whitecaps.


Kelowna Capital News