The Commonwealth youth players’ exposure to international competition continues as the CNMI Girls U15 National Team leaves for China this weekend to see action in the EAFF U15 Girls Tournament 2017.
Twenty-one players are selected on the CNMI youth squad that will play in the East Asian Football Federation-organized event from April 15 to 22 at the Jinshan Sports Center in Shanghai. Co-captains Jerlyn Castillo and Julianne Hall will lead the team, which also has goalies Irish Viray and Theresa Toves, Princess Alcantara, Kyla Mei Tuazon, Esther Jones, Khristelle Itaas, Therese Millare, Lilian Podziewski, Paulynn Joyce, Valeria Myers, Katrina Costales, Joannah Carreon, Jannah Casarino, Leisha Sally, Francesa Bucalig, Sharmaine Francisco, Hannah Santos, and Patricia Surima as members. Olympian Luem KhenKoo will coach the squad and will be assisted by Chi Ming Tang, while CNMI Women’s National Team member Mikky Vargas and Yu Hung Lee are the manager and team manager, respectively. Completing the CNMI delegation is physiotherapist Pam Carhill.
“This tournament is another great opportunity for the girls to see and learn how other countries and players of their age play. Every time they go out of Saipan, it’s a chance for them to see how a game is played outside and find out what they can do to be in that level,” Koo said in an interview with Saipan Tribune during a send-off ceremony for the team yesterday at Kanoa Resort.
The CNMI is in Group C of the tournament that has three pools. It will play Shanghai Jinshan District U15 Team on April 16 and Chinese-Taipei on April 18. The Commonwealth players will also face Group B’s Mongolia on April 20. Mongolia is joined by Hong Kong and Guam in Group B, while Group A or the Group of Death has China, Japan, North Korea, and South Korea.
“I think we have a pretty good chance against Mongolia because the girls continue to improve and show a lot of promise during the training sessions,” Koo added.
Players selected on the team have been training since last year as they have been part of the CNMI Girls U16 pool. When announcement of the EAFF U15 tournament was made, the squad was formed and players who made the cut trained together early this year. They practice four times a week.
Meanwhile, NMIFA Executive Committee member Norman Del Rosario was among the well-wishers of the Commonwealth youth players and he delivered a brief message to the squad in absence of NMIFA president Jerry Tan and vice president Vickie Izuka.
“I am a member of a team and rely on the team. I defer to it and sacrifice for it because the team not the individual is the ultimate champion,” Del Rosario said in reference to the quote of U.S. National Team’s Mia Hamm. “Encourage each other all the time and always give your 100% until the final whistle.”