Whitecaps pass props to Vernon’s Lydia Lavigne

Lavigne, 17, is named Female Player of the Year with Whitecaps/NOYSA Okanagan Soccer Academy

Lydia Lavigne of Vernon is the Female Player of the Year in the Whitecaps/NOYSA Okanagan Soccer Academy.

Lydia Lavigne of Vernon is the Female Player of the Year in the Whitecaps/NOYSA Okanagan Soccer Academy.

At age four, Lydia Lavigne was basically a stress case on the soccer field.

Today, at almost 17, the smiling Vernon-born athlete pretty much has the game figured out.

She is the Female Player of the Year for the Whitecaps/NOYSA Okanagan Soccer Academy, a new initiative honouring outstanding performers at 19 academies across Canada.

“I’d always cry because my team was so bad and I’d try so hard and it was so deflating,” laughed Lavigne, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound centre fullback with the Thompson Okanagan (TOFC) Under 16s.

Lavigne loves the academy, getting a few hours on the pitch each school day with some classroom lectures. She thinks soccer 24/7 and cheers for Barcelona and marvels at Neymar.

“She’s grown immensely,” beamed academy head coach David Broadhurst. “She was a little kid when she first started here and obviously, she’s matured physically which is one of her strengths. Her athleticism and strength make her a strong technical central defender.”

Broadhurst said Lavigne was an easy choice because of her admiration of soccer.

“She is a consistent performer and I love her attitude. Her enthusiasm for the game: she can’t get enough of the game. It’s not just about her ability, but her enthusiasm.”

When not in regular team training, Lavigne and TOFC teammate Cameron Beaumont will work on drills indoors or outdoors. She also crosstrains in the gym with weights, sled pulls and core exercises.

Lavigne began Rep development under Alan Gee, who played soccer for the University of Victoria Vikings back in the day.

“He was my first Rep coach and he pushed me more than other people.  I had him so long and he taught me so much. I got technical with my touches; I got better on the ball.”

The U16s missed the playoffs last season, but she improved with loads of minutes.

“I think I was pretty good. I have been developing as a player and I’m really working for the B.C. HPL (high performance premier league). I feel more composed so when I’m pressured, I’m not scared to get the ball at the back.

She recently trained with the UBCO Heat women’s team for five sessions along with TOFC teammates Kate Cartwright and Grace Miller.

“It was a lot quicker so a real big challenge,” said Lavigne. “I would like to go to Fraser Valley (Cascades in Abbotsford) which has one of the best soccer programs. I realize I have to play a lot faster. That’s going to be a challenge for sure. Everybody thinks super fast.”

Lavigne gives major props to her mom, Annie, a teacher at Beairsto Elementary, for a strong mindset. Lydia lost her father, Glen Evely, in a car crash in downtown Vernon, November, 2004. He was a forester and auxiliary police officer.

She also finds inspiration from her older sister Corinne, who is attending the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Lydia, a Grade 11 VSS student who turns 17 in February, plans to study nursing in college.

The Thompson Okanagan Academy includes centres in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Revelstoke.

Thomas MacDonald, 12, of Revelstoke, is the Male Player of the Year.

There are between 110 and 170 players involved in the academies, depending on the phase. Anthony Vassallo, Jason Thompson, Kai Tolpinrud, Carli Tingstad and Gary Graham round out the local coaching staff.