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U-19 WNT Arrives in Ottawa, Preps for Qualifying Tourney

U.S. Under-19 WNT
CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament
May 24, 2004 – Ottawa, Canada

The U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team will begin qualifying play for a spot in the upcoming 2004 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship against the Dominican Republic on May 28 at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and there is no American television, but fans can follow the USA-Domincan Republic match, and all the Under-19s' matches in qualifying, live on’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. After their opening match, the U.S. will pick up and move to Montreal, where it will play its other two group matches at McGill University Molson Stadium. The U.S. will face Trinidad & Tobago on May 30 at 6 p.m. ET and finish group play against Costa Rica on June 1 at 7 p.m. ET. The semifinals will be played in Montreal, while the final will be held in Ottawa. Both semifinal winners will qualifying for the 2004 championship, which will be held in Thailand from Nov. 10-27, 2004.
Date         Opponent                  Venue                                       Kickoff
May 28    Dominican Rep.         Frank Clair Stadium                   7 p.m. ET
May 30    Trinidad & Tobago    McGill Univ. Molson Stadium    6 p.m. ET
June 1      Costa Rica                 McGill Univ. Molson Stadium    7 p.m. ET
June 4      Semifinals*                 McGill Univ. Molson Stadium    5:30/8 p.m. ET
June 6      Third Place/Final*      Frank Clair Stadium                   10 a.m./1 p.m. ET
* if necessary

The U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team arrived in Ottawa, Canada, on Thursday (May 20), getting settled into the hotel just in time for dinner. Well, almost the entire team. Coming from her hometown of Redding, Calif., Megan Rapinoe had the longest trip of anyone, leaving at 6:27 a.m. PT, catching her connections in San Francisco and Chicago, and finally touching down in Ottawa at 6:44 p.m. ET. The rest of the players had already eaten before Rapinoe dragged her luggage into the hotel, but she was able to grab a quick bite to eat before the team had their first meeting. Head coach Mark Krikorian talked to the team during the 30-minute meeting about their goals for the tournament and what to expect during training for the next week. The players and staff then caught up a bit as the last time they had been together was in April at The Home Depot Center during the Philips Lighting Invitational, before finally hitting the hay to rest up before their first practice on Friday morning.

The U-19s have had three days of training, utilizing both grass and turf fields. All the games during the CONCACAF tournament will be played on turf, so the players have been practicing on the turf field at Ottawa University for the majority of the training sessions. On Friday and Sunday, the team practiced twice a day, switching between the turf field and the grass field at Keith Harris Stadium on the campus of Carelton University, while on Saturday the team just held an afternoon practice at Ottawa University. After working out some kinks in the first practice, the players have looked sharp. During the Sunday evening session at Ottawa University, the women split into two teams and played three 30-minute games of 11v11. The only goal of the match came when Alexa Orand headed home a cross from the left flank, lobbing it over goalkeeper Kelsey Davis and into the upper left hand side of the net.

With the players having two-a-days during two of their three days of training, they haven’t had too much energy to do much during their down time, so they’ve been doing less strenuous activities such as watching movies and reading. Between the players and team coordinator Cindy Wolf, the team has a large selection of DVDs, but the favorites appear to be “Miracle” (which is NOT supposed to be watched unless they get to the semifinals, as it will be used to pump them up the night before), “Finding Nemo”, “Remember the Titans”, and “Cool Runnings” (yes, that “Cool Runnings” about the Jamaican bobsled team with the late John Candy in the role of coach). While some players have been able to relax in between sessions and watch movies or read a book, other have been a bit busier as they are trying to finish their school work. About half of the players are hitting the books, writing papers and taking tests as they try to finish up the school year with good marks, including goalkeeper Kelsey Davis, who has been agonizing over her algebra test that she is taking in the next couple days. The timing of the qualifying tournament has forced some of the girls to miss their high school graduation, but most were happy enough to get to go to their final prom, which was just weeks earlier.

Four players on the U-19 WNT roster have a unique perspective going into qualifying as they know exactly what it means to play for a world championship. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, defender Rachel Buehler, midfielder Angie Woznuk and forward Kerri Hanks, were all members of the 2002 team that won the FIFA U-19 World Championship and were all born after the cutoff for the 2004 World Championship, which is Jan. 1, 1985. Harris and Buehler were starters for the USA in 2002, while Woznuk and Hanks were key reserves. Two years later the girls are all back and are hungry for the chance to win back-to-back world championships, but they know they first need to get past the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. The girls sat down with and discussed how their experiences from two years ago can help the entire team succeed in qualifying, how they’ve been utilizing their veteran role to help their teammates and how the team looks as they close in on their first match against the Dominican Republic.

Short on players to field two full teams to play 11v11 on Sunday evening, assistant coach Erica Walsh was able to recruit a few players to help fill out the squads. Where were they from? No, not Ottawa. Not even Canada. Three Dartmouth players traveled the 6-hour road trip from Hanover, N.H., to play with the Under-19s in the scrimmage. The players stayed the night and drove back to school the next day as they still have two weeks left before summer break. The girls all said they were glad they made the trip, and were happy to help out the team.

The players have had access to some entertaining soccer matches on TV during their first few days in Ottawa. The FA Cup final, both the women’s and men’s FIFA Centennial matches and even the Canada-Germany U-19 WNT match from last week have all been televised. The women’s FIFA Centennial match was replayed during lunch on Saturday afternoon, allowing the entire team the chance to watch Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach in action as they ate their meal.

The girls have had some tough pool workouts as they aren’t running in just any hotel pool. The team’s hotel in Ottawa has an indoor wave pool, with a gigantic slide that goes in two circles before plunging you into the deep end. After practice the players have jumped into the water and worked out, but have noticed it can be a bit more tiring when waves keep bashing into you. Some of the players have taken time to check out the slide, but not before the coaches made a point of telling them to be careful.

Defender Nikki Krzysik turned 17 on Sunday (May 23) and was surprised with a birthday cake and a card from the entire team. Krzysik said she wasn’t bummed about having to spend her birthday in Canada, but she was looking forward to getting back to the U.S. after the tournament to take her driving test. In New Jersey you have to be 17 to get a drivers’ license and Krzysik said she has been practicing and should pass without much of a problem. Plus, she added: "You can fail two parts completely and still fail" (she also had a classic comment that you can read below in the “Quote of the Day”). Next time you’re on the New Jersey Turnpike, you might want to keep an eye out for Nikki!

If any of the U-19 players or staff enjoy tulips, they couldn’t have come to Ottawa at a better time. The Canadian Tulip Festival, one of the largest tulip festivals in the world, is going on just a few blocks from the hotel. The festival, which runs until Monday (May 24), began when the Netherlands' royal family gave Canada a gift of 100,000 tulips five decades ago to show appreciation for the safe haven they were granted in Ottawa during the Second World War, and for the role Canadian soldiers played in the liberation of the Netherlands. Since then, the tulips have become an important symbol of international friendship between the two countries.

 “I couldn’t grasp the concept of pushing the pedal and turning the wheel at the same time.”
    -- Nikki Krzysik, talking about what the hardest thing about driving a car was for her when she was beginning to learn. She turned 17 on Sunday (May 23) and will attempt to get her license when she goes home after the tournament.