BY GEORGE MARATOS

Another Whitehorse men’s soccer league is underway in the capital city this summer and, for 2008, there are some noticeable changes.

For one, some of the more recognizable players have decided not to lace up the cleats, with former league organizers Peter Mather and Danny MacDonald choosing to take the summer off and Jake Hanson electing to wear the coach’s hat instead of playing.

The league has also merged divisions as in past seasons the league has been divided into two levels, a premiership and a tier two.

Derric Lewis, one of this year’s league organizers, says the end result is a stronger league with better attendance and subsequently more exciting games.

“Last year, the soccer was competitive but there were many times where teams wouldn’t have a full roster of players,” explains Lewis.

Lewis notes that rather than go through that again this season, the decision was made to combine divisions.

“With such a healthy economy there are a lot of league regulars working out of town and in the field this summer, so we weren’t sure who could commit.”

Lewis adds a big part of the season’s success can also be attributed to the hiring of league coordinator Caitlyn Wintemute.

“With hiring Caitlyn there’s a lot more accountability for folks to be there, whether it’s players or referees,” explains Lewis. “Chris Donohoe has also been organizing the referees for the league and the refs have been great.”

One of the teams making up the four this summer is a youth squad.

Coached by Hanson, he says involving the youth in the men’s league has been great for their development, especially with the U-16 Nationals this fall and the Canada Summer Games in 2009.

“It’s a good fit for me because I’m going to be coaching both of those teams so it just made sense with my background with the men’s league, too,” says Hanson as he watches his young team from the sidelines at Ecole Emilie Tremblay.

“The guys have been playing some really good soccer. We haven’t won any games yet but we’ve only had one lopsided loss and the score didn’t indicate the level of play.”

On this particular night, the young side of players 15 to 18 years old has one of the older and more experienced sides on the ropes, holding two leads before dropping a close 6-4 decision.

Hanson speaks proudly of the players as he watches them take on the likes of University of Alberta Golden Bear Ammon Hoefs and York University player Jennifer Matchett.

That is another thing about the new-look men’s league this season … it is not just men playing.

While there is a women’s team that takes on rep squads regularly, two female players Matchett and Jackie Harrison have decided to lace up and play with the boys and, as evident watching them in action, they certainly can hold their own.

That only bodes well for them as both plan to pursue soccer Outside this fall.

The men’s league run until mid-August with games being played Monday and Wednesday evenings beginning at 6:30 p.m.

PHOTO: GEORGE MARATOS