The Prince Rupert Football Club women’s team were the toast of the Northwest soccer world this season, capturing a hat trick of championships in just their second year of organized existence.
Brittanne O’Connor is often at the forefront of the offence, being named top forward in PRFC’s first tournament win in Kitwanga, and MVP during the Haisla Annual Soccer Tournament in July. While she will be the first to credit every team member, coach and volunteer, there is no doubt O’Connor had a particularly important part to play in ensuring Prince Rupert established a women’s team of their own in the first place.
Brittanne O’Connor saw a noticeable gap in the local sporting landscape last year, that being the absence of a dedicated women’s soccer team. Women who wanted to play competitive soccer would have to rely on one of the various co-ed teams, until O’Connor decided to take the initiative to make a women’s team happen.
“We started a ladies league, and it started with us just playing the Charles Hays girls for practice,” O’Connor explained of the team’s origins. “It kind of just spiraled from there.”
After the CHSS season wrapped up, the women kept playing together, eventually deciding to turn these sessions into the formation of a full fledged team. They would become known as the Breakers Breezers in their inaugural season, after receiving a sponsorship from the local pub.
Interest quickly grew in the new endeavour, and soon the Breezers had gathered enough support to start playing professionally. Their first ever game was a high flying 7-1 victory over Kitimat. A new team had been born.
|The PRFC women won their third tournament in a row at the Haisla Annual Soccer Tournament in Kitimat. O’Connor was named MVP for her two goal effort in a 3-2 win over the Terrace Providers in the final. (Gerry Leibel / The Northern Sentinel)|
Another key acquisition by the team was that of head coach Nathan Rochon. He has served at the helm for the entirety of the team’s history, and is well regarded by the players.
“He puts in the time and has really good drills and really good input for us,” O’Connor said. “It’s a hard job to do with all these opinionated ladies, but I don’t know where we’d be without him. He’s a really fun coach.”
The groundwork had been laid, and although the Breezers had a series of solid finishes in regional tournaments, they were unable to crack the top spot in their first year. In their second season the team started by undertaking their own fundraising, resulting in a new blue and white jersey and a team name that represented where the players hail from.
|O’Connor can be seen pursuing other sports around Prince Rupert as well. (Northern View file photo)|
Back on the field, O’Connor credits a cohesive offseason approach for helping guide the team to the success of the current campaign.
“We all played indoor together, just the ladies. I think that really helped us develop more skill, learning how everybody played, and still playing throughout the winter,” O’Connor said. “When we come into the new season everybody’s got their touch for the ball and are used to playing with each other. We didn’t have that last year.”
“That really made a huge impact on how well we did.”
Not only does this build chemistry, but O’Connor has seen recruitment rise as a result as well. She says engagement with younger female athletes is key to making this happen. Therefore, O’Connor makes sure PRFC continues their close relationship with CHSS.
“Every year before their season starts we do scrimmages with them to get them ready for the season. This year three of the girls joined the team.”
“We encourage all of them to come out for indoor and for the ladies’ seven aside, and see who wants to come out and play competitively,” O’Connor said.
|O’Connor will continue to pursue both opponents — and a strengthening of the women’s soccer scene in Prince Rupert — for years to come. (Gerry Leibel / The Northern Sentinel)|
There would appear to be no shortage of athletes who want to take part in the women’s competitive team. During the Seafest tournament this year – where PRFC won their second tournament of the season – they were forced to turn a few players away as the roster filled up quickly. O’Connor is hoping in the future that a second Prince Rupert team might be feasible if interest continues to grow.
O’Connor has no doubt that the team’s rapid rise in such a short time frame will also serve to attract the next generation of soccer talent in town, as younger girls see what this all women’s team is capable of.
“I just love the feel of all of it. Getting to know everybody and having a good time on and off the field, and the friendships you make along the way,” O’Connor said.
“It’s such a fun game to play, and it’s always a great time.”
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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