SURREY — Don't ask Kate Qually for any tips on how to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner.
It's not that she doesn't want to help, it's just that, well, the whole concept of a Thanksgiving celebration is kind of an alien concept to Qually and her Surrey United teammates.
"Gosh, it's been at least 10 years since I had Thanksgiving with my family," the Surrey captain said. "It might even be longer because I might have been away before that too when I was at school. I guess my last Thanksgiving must have been when I was a teenager."
For the 10th consecutive year, Surrey United will be winging their way eastward for the holiday, heading to the annual Jubilee Trophy national tournament where they will once again represent British Columbia.
This year's event is in Halifax beginning Oct. 9 and for the second year in a row, the Surrey women will have company in their quest for national gold. Joining the Surrey women's soccer dynasty is Halifax will be their club stable mates, the Surrey United Firefighters, who will be representing B.C. in the men's national tourney.
Qually said the tournament has become a fixture on team members' vacation requests from work, but the repeat trips to nationals never get old for the players.
"We've been there so many times but each national tournament is different," she said. "Weather is always interesting, of course, and there are always teams there that can surprise you - or we can surprise ourselves. It's sports right? On any given day anything can happen. We do the best preparation that we can so there aren't too many surprises, but year to year, every (Surrey) team is different."
The Surrey women have performed well on the national stage, winning medal in each of their nine previous appearances. That bauble collection includes two national titles, the last of which came in 2011.
With so many trips to nationals behind them, Surrey has become a target for teams wanting to make a statement in the tournament.
"We've been there so many times now that other teams there know who we are," Qually said. "There's probably some kind of small intimidation factor for some teams when they play us, but at the same time, every team that we play against treats the game like it's their gold medal match. We have to go up against that kind of passion in every game. The good thing for us is we know how to prepare for this tournament and we're usually ready for anything that we come up against."
The Surrey United Firefighters will also be able to draw upon past experiences as they make their second consecutive trip to club soccer's big dance.
"The team was there last year and I'm sure some of the other provinces will be represented by the same clubs again this year," said Surrey coach Rob Reed. "So some of the teams will look familiar to us, the tournament format will be familiar and we definitely know what the task at hand is.
Having been there before is a definite advantage. You need to devise a specific strategy for this tournament because you play so many games over a short period of time. It's like nothing else we do in our season. It's a much different animal than league games."
The Firemen have already caught one break from the schedule makers: they have a bye on day one of tournament play. That means that not only to they have an extra day to adjust to the time zone changes, Surrey will also be able to scout their first round opponent - Manitoba - in their opening game.
Reed said the early bye could be an advantage, but nothing about the tournament will be easy for Surrey.
"We're expecting a lot of tough competition," Reed said. "We're going up against a bunch of teams that have just finished their seasons and are at the top of their games. They'll be in peak form while we're just gearing up and getting going again with our season. We know every game is going to be tough and we're going to need a disciplined approach to get through it."
The national tournament run from Oct. 9 to 14 with the championship finals taking place on Thanksgiving Monday.
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