Young soccer players are blooming on the South Shore pitch this spring.
Nearly a dozen local players have earned the right to attend Vancouver Whitecaps combines along with other high performance events in Montreal in the early part of 2017.
"Having so many players involved is a great indication that the many hours on the training ground are paying off," said South Shore United Football Club president Mat Nightingale.
"Not just for the players involved, but for the parents and coaches who sacrifice so many hours each year to help the players improve."
He said it's a wonderful achievement for a rural club to have an abundance of players involved with elite programs.
"It also helps the players realize that they can play locally to home and still get selected for these squads - you don't have to go to HRM to compete on a larger stage."
Hebbville Academy student Noah van Kessel and Jaylynn Morash from Chester Area Middle School recently attended the Whitecaps' combine with their respective provincial teams for two days of training and four days of games.
Morash helped her provincial squad go 4-0 versus some of the best U13 teams from across Canada.
"Jaylynn is naturally a defender. She played centre-back most of the combine and did very, very well," said Soccer Nova Scotia high performance director Graham Chandler.
"She was calm, cool and collected on the ball, made very good decisions in possession, defensively nullified a number of attacks and held her position very well."
Chandler said van Kessel also shone.
"He performed very, very well and there were a couple games when he arguably was among Nova Scotia's top players in terms of performance. It was a sort of watershed moment for him, which we're all very happy about."
van Kessel's coach said he covers all four corners of the player evaluation model, which includes technical, physical, emotional and mental elements.
"It was a real pleasure to work with Noah over the past week," said Nino Kovacevic.
"He is punctual, committed, considerate of others. The boy has great character."
Meanwhile, Keenan Mason, who scored four goals in five games at the 2015 under-14 nationals with South Shore United, was one of three Nova Scotians hand picked to attend the Whitecaps' high-performance player combine earlier this year.
"These boys would be part of the identification process for the 2018 Whitecaps Academy player intake," said Chandler.
"In other words, if the Whitecaps identified Keenan as a potential professional player, he might possibly get asked to join the academy for program start-up in September."
Last week, teenagers Callum Corkum, Morgan Weagle, Devon Bode, Genelle Morash and Kaitlyn Woodworth travelled to Vancouver with their respective provincial teams, along with 17-year-old Mckenzie Kelly, who is a 2017 Canada Games hopeful.
Three South Shore boys have also been in the running for roster spots with Team Nova Scotia at this summer's Canada Games in Winnipeg, including Adam Harvey, Cameron Zinn and Colton Kaizer.
In addition, next month, Jenna Turner and Luke Woodworth will represent Nova Scotia teams in Montreal.
"The skills required to reach the provincial teams are varied, but ... all players must want to succeed and push themselves to new heights," said Nightingale.
"The sacrifice to play at an elite level starts young - giving so many hours to practice and travelling to games isn't for everyone - but the benefits are there when you get picked to represent your province and also with the many soccer players who have played for South Shore United FC and received scholarships to university."