The CNMI Women’s National Team was presented with an opportunity during the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup and capitalized on it paving the way for the historic win.
Emily Maxberry, during Episode 5 of Footcast with Norman aired last weekend, recalled how their coaches, led by Olympian Luam Khen Koo, told them before the game against Macau that “if we’re going to win, this is it, this is our game.” Maxberry, who was joined in the Podcast by Carrie Schuler, Megan Silberberger, Neeka Atalig, Chevy Alipio, Gabrielle Race, and Mikky Vargas, also remembered how she felt something good will happen after meeting the team that had a good mix of young players.
“With the new girls and some of us veterans, it felt like I am playing college soccer again and we have a chance,” said Maxberry, who scored two goals in their 7-0 triumph over Macau.
Silberberger saw a different level of confidence from her teammates and it showed in the way they played, especially on the offensive end.
“We had the opportunity and we seized it. It was like we want to make a statement that we are the CNMI team and we can play, not so much on defense liked we used to, but we’re also good on offense,” said Silberberger, who scored one goal in the second half.
Though, they knew they had a chance, both Schuler and Vargas admitted that they don’t want to be too complacent and still held their guards up.
“We’re prepared to protect our goal. Then after we scored a couple in the first half that’s the time I told myself ‘let’s do this (going on the offensive),’” said Schuler, who handed the CNMI its second goal in the first half, while Race made the third and Alex Vergara drew first blood for the team.
“I remember Gabi (Race) and I working hard on defense in the majority of the first half. Then when we went up at 3-0, I got a bit comfortable and from there it was smooth sailing,” Vargas said.
The 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup in Guam in 2014 was the first time Race played for the CNMI and it was an opportunity to prove something for herself.
“I did not make the team when I first tried and nearly quit. But my dad (CNMI Hall of Famer and tennis coach Jeff Race) told me to keep going, join the practice, and I am glad I did,” said Race, who was the second youngest player on the team at 16.
The youngest was the 14-year-old Alipio, who backed up goalie Atalig. Alipio said that playing on the Women’s National Team at a young age gave her a very good learning experience and inspire her to improve her game knowing that one day she will get the chance to start for the squad. Atalig, on the other hand, took the tournament as an opportunity not only to learn from the veteran members of the team, but also to set an example to the young guns.
“Someday someone will take your spot and you want them not to be like you, but be better than you are,” Atalig said.