Lifelong friends from Ladysmith compete together at Summer Games

Two Mid-Isle Soccer Club players who have known each other their whole lives will experience their highest level of competition.

Two Mid-Isle Soccer Club players who have known each other their whole lives will get to experience their highest level of competition together this week when they participate in the BC Summer Games in Nanaimo.

Mary Nicholls and Ava Wilson, who are both 12 years old and both live in Ladysmith, will be suiting up for the Vancouver Island-Central Coast U12 Girls’ soccer team. This is the highest level they’ve played at so far.

“It’s exciting, but I’m also really scared at the same time,” Nicholls said just days before the Games begin.

Wilson shares her mixture of excitement and nerves.

“It’s nerve-wracking, but I think it will be a good experience,” she said.

Nicholls, who can play any position on the field except goalkeeper, has been playing on a U13 rep team since she was 10, and she has been playing with the Mid-Isle Highlanders Youth Soccer Academy. She thinks that extra training helped her earn a spot on the BC Summer Games team, along with her parents, who supported her and motivated her.

Wilson, who is a goalkeeper and also plays with the Highlanders Academy, feels that a lot of determination helped her make the team.

Nicholls and Wilson have had a couple of practices with their BC Summer Games team, and on Sunday, July 13, they had two practices in Nanaimo and watched the World Cup final together as a team.

“Barely any of us knew anyone before, so we got a lot of bonding in,” said Mary.

The team’s first game is this Friday (July 18), and they will play two games on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.

“All of the coaches are really supportive, and I like my team a lot,” said Wilson. “I think we have a pretty good chance.”

With just days to go until the Summer Games, Nicholls says it would be really cool to win the tournament, and she thinks it’s going to be a lot of fun because they all stay together as a team in Nanaimo for the duration of the Games, and there will be a dance Friday and Saturday night.

Wilson is also getting excited.

“I’d be so astonished if we won, and I think it will be good for bonding and making new friends,” she said.

Both Nicholls and Wilson started playing soccer because their siblings played.

Nicholls began playing because her sister played and she wanted to as well, while Wilson saw her brother playing and thought it would be fun. Wilson stopped playing for a year because she didn’t really like it, but she gave it another try, and she says she got really into soccer once she found out how fun it could be if she learned to play a little better.

Nicholls hopes to go as far as she can in soccer.

“I’d really like to play on Team Canada,” she said.

Nicholls counts her sister Georgia as one of her soccer heroes — “she’s gotten way better since she started rep, and so I wanted to,” she says — along with her parents, coach Bill Merriman and the Highlanders Academy. She also considers Canadian national team member Christine Sinclair and American national team member Alex Morgan as heroes.

Wilson says Merriman and Nicholls, with whom she’s been friends since the day Nicholls was born, are her soccer heroes. She also looks up to American goalkeeper Hope Solo and Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

After the Summer Games and possibly some soccer camps during the summer, Nicholls is moving up to the second-highest level on the Island and will play with the Vancouver Island Premier League (VIPL) Storm Tier 2 U14 Girls, playing a year up.

Wilson will be playing with the HCFC Rep Tier 3 U13 Girls this fall, and she will be part of the U13 VIPL Training Pool, meaning she could get called up for VIPL games throughout the season.

Nicholls’ mother, Kathleen, says both girls have gotten great training in Ladysmith to get them to this level.

“The Academy has been super instrumental for both of the girls and the Mid-Isle Soccer Club, promoting them and giving them opportunities to play at higher levels,” she said.

Nicholls feels that through playing with  the Academy, she has gained better ball control, and she feels she has much better touches on the ball and her shots have gotten much harder. She also feels she’s learned a better understanding of soccer and has improved her vision on the field.

The Academy is where Wilson really started to learn how to play in net, and she says it has taught her a lot.

Nicholls and Wilson may be the only local soccer players in the Nanaimo 2014 BC Summer Games, which kick off Thursday, July 17, but they are not the only locals participating.

Local participants include:

From Ladysmith

• Marina Anderson (athletics)

• Haydn Sitler (box lacrosse)

• Mckenzie Saysell (girls’ rugby)

• Chris Vassallo (sailing)

• Mary Nicholls (girls’ soccer)

• Ava Wilson (girls’ soccer)

• Tony McCrory (boys’ basketball official)

• Deb Fox (equestrian head coach)

From Chemainus

• Danielle Groenendijk (girls’ volleyball)

• Susan Harrison (equestrian official)

From Cedar

• Paige Wilson (synchronized swimming)