A young CNMI Women’s All-Star Team might have lost their last two games in last week’s Luen Thai Cup in Hong Kong but their combined efforts made a lasting impression on their opponents.
The All-Stars finished with a 1-2 record dropping consecutive matches against South China Agricultural University Women’s Football Club, 3-2, and the Singapore National Women’s A Team, 2-0. Their lone win was over Chelsea FC Soccer School, 2-1.
“We were the youngest team in the tournament, we even had a 13-year-old. Our opponents were surprised how young we are and how we managed to play against them,” said player/manager Angie Ito.
Singapore and South China University players are all college age but the CNMI All-Stars held their own against both teams.
Fourteen-year-old keepers Chevy Alipio and Karla Ballesteros limited Singapore and South China to a combined five goals and at the same time managed to score against both veteran squads.
“We’re always been the underdogs. We were a little nervous since Singapore is known to be a good team like in the same level of Japan and we never saw them play,” said 14-year-old Gwen Borja.
“The three weeks of training helped us gel. At first we didn’t know much about each other but the Hong Kong trip made us closer,” added 19-year-old Geraldine Castillo, who became a member of the CNMI national women’s team in 2012.
Fifteen-year-old Renita Fleming said that they were expecting to play defense against the three teams but it was a different story come game time, thanks to Chelsea Hong Kong coach Leslie Santos’ military-like three-week training.
“We had ball possession most of the time and we became more confident when we got our first win. Coach Leslie’s training helped our offense since the past year we focused more on defense but now we learned on how to attack more,” said Fleming.
“The experience we gained in that three weeks boosted our confidence and helped us learn to trust each other inside the pitch,” added Lyka Sally, another one of the team’s 14-year-old starters.
Ito said that they plan to keep the core of the team intact in time for more off-island tournaments including another East Asian Football Federation event later this year.
“We’re hoping to keep the team intact for year-round training. Chemistry and individual skills could help us win more games,” added Ito.