For Vancouver Island native Sara Goodman, wearing the red and white of Team Canada on home soil for the first time is something she’ll never forget. As one of the more experienced players on the Junior Women’s National Team (JWNT), Goodman said the community support and on-field success made the experience even better.
On June 29, the JWNT faced Chile’s U21 National Team in the first of six matches at the University of Victoria field. Canada put up a convincing 6-0 win in the opening match, emphatically starting a series that would eventually see them notch four wins, one draw and a loss. Goodman said that despite the score lines getting tighter throughout the event, she thinks the team made huge progress and growth.
“Chile definitely played better after that first game,” Goodman said. “It was such a great learning opportunity for us to work together and improve as a team. Since our training camp in Victoria, we’ve made some huge strides.”
For many of these athletes, last week’s home series marked the first time they have donned the maple leaf in competition. Goodman, however, made her debut in senior competition earlier this year in a Women’s National Team (WNT) series in Santiago, Chile. She will also be entering her second year at UBC this fall. With that experience in mind, she said she wanted to support the younger players on the team and set a good example.
“Just like the girls on the senior team do for me, I wanted to be supportive for the younger girls on the team,” she said. “I offered advice when I could, and I think it was a good learning experience for me to be in a leadership role.”
The junior women’s development program has had a busy year. A large JDS contingent traveled to Chula Vista, California for a camp and a squad met in Victoria, BC in May for a selection camp. The numbers were then shaved down and the newly formed team immediately began a camp in Shawnigan Lake, BC. JWNT head coach, Shiaz Virjee, said the Chile Series is another great building block in the Junior Development System and he believes the athletes and team made another step in the right direction. For Virjee, the positive results on the field are a direct result of the hard work done in previous months.
“I think the biggest thing is our preparation; when you work hard, and the preparation is good, the results follow,” he said. “It’s nice to see where we stack up against a Pan American team like Chile.”
Virjee said that because many of the athletes are new to international play, there’s a learning curve to get used to the pace of play. He said he was very impressed with how the team has met that challenge head-on and have shown success already.
“It’s a big jump from provincial and high school play,” he said. “The nuances, the structures, the set plays. Everything is tighter and done at a higher pace.”
Less than three days after finishing their final Chile Series game, 14 JWNT athletes have their boots on the ground in Belgium. There, they will play in a Junior 6-Nations tournament featuring world powerhouse teams such as Netherlands, Great Britain and India.
Goodman, whose international play has been limited to the Pan-Americas, said she couldn’t be more excited to compete against some of the best teams in the world. With the Junior World Cup approaching in the coming years, this type of experience will be invaluable especially for the younger players on the team.
“I am so excited. This will be an amazing experience for all of us, getting to play against those European teams. It will be a different level for a lot of us,” she said. “It’s the type of experience we need if we want to qualify for the Junior World Cup.”
Adding some depth to the JWNT, four senior national team players — under the age of 23 — will be joining the squad for the 6-Nations tournament. Nikki Woodcroft, Steph Norlander and two goalkeepers, Rowan Harris and Lauren Logush have now joined the JWNT in Belgium.
The four senior players are coming off a five-week tour of Europe with the WNT. Goodman said they will bring an added level of experience that will be a great example for the JWNT players.
“They will bring that knowledge and experience from the senior level and really set the pace for us,” she said. “It’ll be great to have the goalkeepers leading the pack from the back-end.”
See below for the touring roster click HERE for the event schedule. Follow the JWNT during their 6-Nations tournament by keeping tabs on the FHC 6-Nations Page and FHC social media. For a behind-the-scenes look at their competition experience, follow the Junior Women’s National Team on Instagram.
Alexis De Armond
Claire Linn – Manager
Julia Pharand – Athletic Therapist
Shiaz Virjee – Head Coach
Canada takes on Chile in Junior National Team action last week at UVic. Photos: Graham Ross