July 19th, 2019

High school soccer has returned

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on May 16, 2019.

NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN
McCoy Colts goalkeeper Ethan Smith dives to make a save on Crescent Heights Viking Kenton Ast during a high school soccer game at the Methanex Bowl on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

rmccracken@medicinehatnews.com@MHNMcCracken

It’s been nearly a decade since high school soccer graced the pitches of the Gas City.

Now that it’s finally back, McCoy Colts coach Hugh Lehr hopes it’s here to stay.

“I hope it just grows from here. It’s a great start, we had to get it started and we’re hoping it grows,” Lehr said at Wednesday’s game between McCoy and Crescent Heights at the Methanex Bowl. “It’s got some momentum now. I think it’ll grow every year.”

Lehr helped get the local high school soccer league back on its feet with a co-ed division this year, but he wasn’t the only one pushing for the beautiful game to make a comeback in Medicine Hat.Â

“I’ve actually been pushing for it for a number of years now,” said Crescent Heights player Ardit Zejnullahu. “I’ve been telling my gym teachers we need a high school league. They’ve said this and that, but now we finally have one and I enjoy the competitive nature.”

While the high school league only boasts three squads this season – Hat High, McCoy and Crescent Heights, which includes students from Eagle Butte – Lehr points out there is promise for the future with six full rosters in the junior division.

“If these kids realize there’s a place to play when they get to high school they’ll stay with it,” said Lehr, adding the junior division includes Notre Dame, Alexandra, a Prairie Rose squad, two teams from Crescent Heights and another combining St. Mary’s with Cape School.

“The reality is people want to play for their school, what better way to get kids back involved than to get kids playing for their schools. We tried last year and we didn’t have the numbers, but this year we’ve had a great response.”

Lehr added the league features a great deal of diversity, from its co-ed structure to varying levels of skill and experience, and it all meshes beautifully.

“These kids are having a great time,” he said. “We’ve got a least three or four players on this team who haven’t played in a long time, they just wanted to come out and play for their school. That’s what this is about. We’ve got such a gap in players but they’re playing well together. Everyone is having a great time, and you’ve got kids behind me coming out from their high school to watch.”

McCoy’s Grace McCue added the focus isn’t on scoring goals or preventing them, but just getting out on the pitch and having some fun together as a team.

“I think it’s just a good opportunity for everybody to get together,” said McCue. “You get to play with your friends. I think it’s all about having fun for us.”

Fellow Colt Madalyn Harpell added most of the girls on McCoy’s roster grew up playing against boys, and they’ve been helping push the pace on the pitch this season.

“We’ve been playing against the boys for a long time, but it makes it more competitive and a lot more fun,” she said. “It’s fun playing with all your friends, usually we don’t get to do that.”

Lehr added he hopes to see the league continue to grow by the year, with the overall goal of creating separate divisions for girls and boys, as well as adding a few more teams.

“We’re hoping in the future years as it gains momentum we’ll be able to have a girls and a boys division, but right now the co-ed is working out really great. The girls are fitting in just fine and the games are very competitive,” said Lehr. “Half our team is girls at McCoy and Crescent Heights has four or five girls.”

McCoy, Crescent Heights and Hat High will all be out on the pitch for a four-team tournament with Brooks – who will combine their boys and girls teams to make a co-ed squad for the event – at the Methanex Bowl, May 25-26.

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