Soccer player back in Terrace for graduating year

Paige Payne is returning to the Terrace U18 team this summer after a year developing her skills at a Prince George academy.

Paige Payne playing with the Prince George U18 Timberwolves last August.

Paige Payne playing with the Prince George U18 Timberwolves last August.

Paige Payne who played six years in Terrace soccer is returning to the team for her graduating year after spending her Grade 11 year in a competitive soccer academy in Prince George, and competing with a variety of high-level soccer teams for under 18 girls.

The season included two showcase tournaments – one in California and one in Vancouver – where university and college coaches come looking to recruit strong new players.

Payne was invited by several universities to play on their teams, including Rhodes College in Memphis, but decided in March to sign a contract and play with the UNBC Timberwolves next year.

She met the coach, Neil Sedgwick, and said she found him accepting and very knowledgeable and felt it would be valuable to learn from him.

“I really liked his style of coaching and just him as a coach… and the girls on the team are so supportive and accepting. I am really excited to play with them next season,” she said.

Now age 17, Payne grew up in Kitimat and started playing soccer there at age seven, first in the youth league and then the recreational house league.

In 2010, she played on the BC Summer Games northwest team.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a step up from the soccer here, a bit more competitive,” Payne said. Through that team she got to know Terrace players and coach Sean Bujtas and decided to try out for the Terrace select U18 team.

“I got along with the girls in Terrace really well, they were very accepting and welcoming… and the team is more competitive and travels to compete,” she said.

Payne played with the Terrace select team every summer afterwards, from 2011 to 2014, travelling and competing in three big tournaments in the Lower Mainland and winning bronze in the ‘B’ Provincial Cup in 2013.

Then in August 2014, she played in a Vancouver Prospects weekend soccer camp in Prince George, and was seen and recruited by coaches to join the Whitecaps Soccer Academy there.

She moved to Prince George for her Grade 11 year, September 2014 to July 2015, and lived with a soccer coach there while she attended high school and trained at the soccer academy.

“That really helped me grow as a player. It made my soccer IQ get much higher… they try to open your eyes to understand the game at a higher level… it really brings up your tactical game,” Payne said.

Towards the end of the Whitecaps academy season, Payne was chosen by coaches as a high potential player and given the opportunity to compete in a U18 Vancouver showcase tournament in March 2015. She and 16 others were selected out of all the players in Whitecaps academies in the Lower Mainland, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and as far as London, Ont.

Payne said their team won three games and tied one, playing teams from Canada and the United States.

During her year at the academy in Prince George, Payne also joined the Prince George U18 team for the season and won bronze in the Provincial A Cup.

She tried out for the select team and travelled to a California showcase tournament in November 2014.

“It was probably the most fun showcase, due to the location, but we lost three games and tied one,” Payne said.

After the busy season in Prince George, Payne decided to move back to Kitimat for her Grade 12 year.

“I wanted to graduate alongside the close friends that I grew up with,” she said. “I also wanted spend my last year as a teenager with my supportive and loving family, as I will be moving out at the end of my grad year.”

In September she is heading to UNBC where she will major in biomedical science and pursue a degree in health sciences with the goal of becoming a physiotherapist.

“I love science, and I would love to help people – but not in a way that I have to see blood – so I thought a physiotherapist would be the perfect job for me in the future,” Payne said. “I would be able to help people, and its a job where you have to be on your feet and helping people and you have to know a lot about the human body and anatomy.”

But for the summer, Payne is back with her Terrace U18 team.

“I’ve known these girls since grade six… I want to finish off my year with the girls that I’ve grown up with. I think it would be the perfect way to end my youth years in soccer,” she said.

“There are a lot of good girls on the team and I am excited to spend the summer with them.”

Terrace coach Sean Bujtas said the team finished fourth in the provincials last year, and is looking forward to a strong season this year, happy to have Payne back.

“She is tenacious,” Bujtas said. “I have never met such a driven kid on my life. She lives for the sport, she’s always happy to be on the field and the score of the game doesn’t slow her down. She is all heart, and plays and plays and plays. Her drive is what has gotten her where she is.”

Payne said she has loved soccer since she was little, but her step dad and his family has played a big part in inspiring her passion for soccer.

“He is from Portuguese background and his whole family is really dedicated to soccer. So I’ve grown up with cousins and uncles who are really into it,” she said.

“My step dad and everyone has been super supportive of me. They are always willing to help me practice and get better. My passion for soccer keeps growing and growing as the years go on,” she said.

More long term, Payne said her big dream has been to play on the national team, but she focuses on achieving short-term goals.

“I shouldn’t be thinking too far in the future,” she said. “I’ll just do these short term goals, go to university, play there and see where it takes me from there.”