There have been a number of cases where younger girls have developed as hockey players by playing with the boys.
In Grace Smith’s instance, she learned her soccer skills on the pitch with boys.
“I really wasn’t super interested in the sport until I started playing competitively with the (Sylvan Lake) Blizzards boys team,” said the 18-year-old Sylvan Lake native. “I think it helped my development for sure … it helped me hold my ground.”
Once she caught the soccer bug, Smith concentrated fully on the sport which has led to her receiving a scholarship to play with the RDC Queens.
“It was something I hoped for once I got into Red Deer and started playing for the Renegades, which is connected with the Queens,” she said.
Grace came up through the Sylvan Lake program, played with the Central Alberta Soccer Association U16 program, where she went to the provincials, then joined the Renegades in 2017.
This past season she was with the U19 squad, although COVID ruined their season.
“We were able to practice some, but no games,” she said. “It certainly hurts everyone by not playing, but we’re all excited about getting back.”
But what she did do was see more of Queens head coach Mahziar Peyrow, who was coaching the Renegades.
“I first met him at a training day with the Queens and he was super cool. I really liked his positive attitude. You don’t get that with some coaches.
“He understands teenage girls,” she said with a laugh.
While Smith liked what she saw in Peyrow, the veteran coach liked what he saw in the five-foot-four attacking midfielder.
“She’s a very strong player … she’s effective in that she can penetrate and has scoring capabilities.”
“I do like to score,” she said. “I like the position as you touch the ball a lot and decide where the play goes.
“The one thing I like the most is creating a crisp play. Even if you don’t score it’s good just to have that crisp play.”
Grace is one of 14 new faces to join the Queens this season and Peyrow, who was an assistant coach with the Kings when they went to the nationals in 2019, believes there’s a bright future.
“He brings that with him to our team and says we’re going to go to the nationals as well,” said Smith. “We all believe we have the team to do that”
“I may be biased but I feel this is the strongest team I’ve seen here for some time, at least in the last five or six years,” said Peyrow.
Grace is going into the business program at RDC and should be around for up to five years.
“I hope to stay and get my degree here,” she said. “I did receive an offer to go to Lakeland College, but wanted to stay at home and I do like this program.”
Peyrow has five players coming in from the Renegades and four from the Sherwood Park Phoenix Club.
“Because of the pandemic recruiting has been a little tougher, so you have to build relationships and we built one with the Phoenix Club, which has a very good program. “We have the four girls coming in this year and seven interested for next year.
“It’s a good feeder program as is the Renegades. We’re always interested in central Alberta players. We feel it’s important to work with the youth programs.”
Peyrow has put together an impressive list of recruits including sisters Sofia and Estel Quinteros, striker Paige Kalbfleisch, fullback defender Fernanda Giuntini and winger Tristen Clubine from the Phoenix.
The Quinteros sisters both played for the FC Barcelona soccer team in competition against B.C. and Ontario and for FC Barcelona Canadian women’s team in international competition.
Both sisters have entered the nursing program as did Kalbfleisch who played for Canada’s Green and Gold team in Barcelona, Spain.
Giuntini Bella was born and grew up in Brazil and received a number of offers from Canadian and U.S. universities but selected RDC because “it suited my goals in soccer and education.”
Clubine helped the Phoenix Club win a number of provincial and national titles while Jenica Swartz of Lacombe will also compete for the RDC cross-country team.
Other local additions include Corbynn Fujimoto, who also played with the Phoenix and the U of A Jr. Pandas, midfielder Natassia Wright, defender Rebekah Andasol and keeper Tamera Ferris.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org