Vernon players with TOFC U18s earning Canadian university soccer scholarships, from left, Camryn Beaumont (Regina Cougars), Sydney Embleton (Grande Prairie Wolves), Lydia Lavigne (UNBC Timberwolves) and Alex Lockwood (Queen’s Gaels). (Kevin Mitchell/Morning Star)

TOFC soccer girls earn scholarships

U18s sending 10 players to Canadian schools

Their mandate is to prepare players for the college and university soccer level.

The Thompson Okanagan FC Under 18 girls team staff went over the top this season with 10 players pocketing scholarships for next season.

Alex Lockwood, Camryn Beaumont, Sydney Embleton and Lydia Lavigne represent Vernon on that impressive list. They are all in Grade 12.

TOFC head coach Jason Thompson and GM Kai Tolpinrud give the girls major props for earning looks from Canadian schools.

“It is an exceptional feat,” said Thompson. “It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication they have put in over several years in our program. Each one of these girls has demonstrated a desire to better themselves both on and off the pitch. It has been a joy and a privilege to coach them and to see them succeed.”

Thompson Okanagan FC is a founding member of the BC Soccer Premier League and serves as a feeder system to the provincial teams, Whitecaps Residency (boys) and Whitecaps Girls Elite REX programs, and as the main scouting arena for Canadian and U.S. universities.

“This is a monstrous accomplishment for the club and for the players,” said Tolpinrud. “It is quite remarkable to have 10 players from one team receive scholarships.”

Lockwood, a central midfielder from the Kalamalka Lakers, is headed to Queen’s University Gaels in Kingston, Ont. She will study the sciences and keep a family tradition alive.

“My parents, Stephanie and James, both went to Queen’s. They met there and it (visit to campus) clicked right away for me. It was a good fit, athletically and academically. I practised with the team for a couple of days and I had really good chemistry with them. It’s a high level, but it’s one I’m ready for. I’m super excited.”

Lockwood, who played high school and club volleyball and does downhill and Nordic skiing, also enjoys horseback riding and portrait painting.

Beaumont, a defender with the Fulton Maroons, is now the property of the University of Regina Cougars. She will also study business.

“They (Cougar staff) liked that I move the ball and am active on the field, always aware of the players around me. I want to be in the best physical shape when I get there.”

At 5-foot-2, Beaumont plays much bigger by using her strength and determination while dishing short, accurate passes. She trained with the Cougars last November.

“I started playing competitive soccer in Fort St. John when I was eight. I was playing with 12-year-olds so I got better faster. I came to TOFC in Grade 10 for a better opportunity.”

Embleton, a striker from the VSS Panthers, will play for the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves. She is enrolled in business administration.

Lavigne, a 6-foot-1 fullback and long distance runner with the Panthers, will boost the University of Northern B.C. Timberwolves. She registered in the psychology program.

“I started in Li’l Kickers and I liked it right away. I was lanky and awkward. I like the running. My range of passing is pretty good; I make long passes pretty good from the back. I’m working on my headers. I want to push myself to be better.”

Lavigne knows the jump to the Canada West level is a substantial one. She aims to ensure a smooth transition by getting stronger this summer.

“I am hoping to be very strong in my tackles, and distribute the ball well. I want to play forward. Going against bigger girls, I know most of them do weightlifting, so I will have to start upping my game in that, and just start playing faster.”

Embleton, a striker from the VSS Panthers, will play for the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves. She is enrolled in business administration.

She learned the basics in Li’l Kickers and then tried synchronized swimming, baseball and dance (ballet and hip-hop) before taking soccer more seriously.

“I tried out for U16 Rep soccer and while I didn’t have the confidence, I made it. My love of the game has helped my self-esteem. I’m always working on improving my confidence. I have speed and I can make the little touches.”

Embleton played power and libero in high school volleyball this past season. She plays piano and guitar.

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