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Girlz in high spirits ahead of opening Olympic qualifying game against Mexico

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

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Having made the most of their pre-tournament camp in Houston, Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz are now putting the final pieces in place ahead of kick-off in the Concacaf Women's Olympic Qualifiers.

The delegation arrived in McAllen, Texas, early yesterday where they were expected to hit the ground running with a full dress rehearsal for tomorrow's opening Group B performance against Mexico at HEB Park in Edinburgh.

Assistant Coach Andrew Price pointed out that the camp, which lasted just over a week, served its purpose, as the coaching staff, headed by Hubert Busby, made the most of the opportunity to evaluate each position.

According to Price, the camp also exposed the team to conditions which they are likely to face head-on during their quest for qualification to the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

It was the first time the team got together since steamrolling opponents in the Caribbean leg of qualifiers last October, and by all indications, the players are in a positive frame of mind and determined to display their best.

“The pre-tournament camp in Houston was very successful. We not only had an opportunity to have the team gel together and work on some tactical issues that we want to correct for the championship, but the conditions were very similar to what we might face in McAllen. It was cold and rained a lot and I think these will be the same conditions here, so it was good to have the training sessions that simulated the conditions we might see during game days,” Price told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“So it was an excellent pre-tournament camp; there was a lot of bonding and camaraderie among the players and I think they are really up to it, because they want to create more history. We know we have the requisite talent to compete against all the teams that are in the final round of the Olympic Qualifiers, and we just have to go out there and execute on the day,” he added.

Despite the cancellation of their friendly contest against Costa Rica due to inclement weather, the coaching staff improvised and pulled together a scrimmage match against a Houston Dynamo Under-15 male team on Sunday. Kayla McCoy, returning from injury, Cheyna Matthews and Olufolasade Adamolekun, were on target in a 3-1 victory for the Girlz.

While off field, the Girlz' preparations included going over footage of their opponents.

“The confidence is bubbling in the team...as a matter of fact Khadija Shaw arrived not too long ago and it has added a further lift, and Allyson Swaby should arrive later on. So the team is really coming together and gelling together and we are getting prepared for that Mexico challenge on Wednesday.

“We want to do another session, followed by the mandatory 45 minutes on the playing field that will host the game, and then we polish off and get ready for the big game. But the team is in good spirits — the vibe is good and the girls are eager and raring to go, and we expect a good showing,” Price said.

With only two new players – Alyssa Whitehead and Gabrielle Farrell – the 20-member squad boasts 13 players from the Fifa Women's World Cup group last year, and Price believes the team is not short on talent and need only to execute efficiently to once again etch their names in the annals of Jamaican sporting history.

“There is a good balance of youth and experience in the team; we have some young players who have transitioned from the last Under-20 cycle that have come into the squad and have adapted well. They really showed a lot of impetus and desire and it was very encouraging to see these young players really go out there and put in the work required,” Price noted.

“Of course there were the senior players who know what competition is all about and will use that World Cup experience as a foundation to help the youngsters, and I believe that will serve us well in this tournament. What we have to do is take it one game at a time and the bullseye is now on Mexico, and that's what we are focused on,” he ended.

Following their Group B opener against Mexico, Jamaica will face Canada on Saturday and St Kitts and Nevis next Tuesday, after which the top two teams in the group will advance to the semi-finals against the top two nations in Group A.

The two winners of those semi-finals on February 7 will qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, as well as advance to the February 9 Concacaf Final. Both the semi-finals and final will be played in Carson in California.

Squad– Sydney Schneider, Chris-Ann Chambers, Alyssa Whitehead, Sashana Campbell, Trudi Carter, Madiya Harriott, Tiernny Wiltshire, Chantelle Swaby, Gabrielle Farrell, Kayla McCoy, Olufolasade Adamolekun, Konya Plummer, Khadija Shaw, Havana Solaun, Allyson Swaby, Dominique Bond-Flasza, Deneisha Blackwood, Cheyna Matthews, Chinyelu Asher, Tiffany Cameron


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