Reggae Girl Hylton-Pelaia ready for ASU challenge after almost two years on sidelines


Reggae Girl Hylton-Pelaia ready for ASU challenge after almost two years on sidelines

Observer staff reporter

Friday, January 22, 2021

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Having been out of action for most of the last two years, Reggae Girlz defender Jayda Hylton-Pelaia is eagerly awaiting a return to competitive football when she joins the Arizona State programme as a graduate transfer in the fall.

The Canadian-born player, who last represented Jamaica at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru, was limited to just three appearances with her previous school East Carolina University (ECU) due to injury, but received a medical hardship waiver, which would have allowed her one season of eligibility last year.

However, with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the sporting world last year, Hylton-Pelaia, who was raring to go on return from a frustrating period caused by the torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), was made to wait for her final year of senior football.

“Going into the 2019 fall season, I was at a high in my soccer career. I had just represented Jamaica at the Pan Am Games and also I was named the pre-season defender of the year in the AAC conference. So, it was devastating for me when I got injured four games into my senior season, especially once I learned the extent of the injury and how long the recovery would take.

“It definitely took a toll on me mentally because there was so much I couldn't do and there were certainly days where I felt discouraged and frustrated. It took about four months before I could run properly,” Hylton-Pelaia recollected.

“Since I was very limited and doing the same exercises over and over again, it was difficult to stay motivated but it was important for me to stay positive and excel in the things I could do. Thankfully, my teammates and athletic staff were very uplifting and helped me focus on the bigger picture,” she told the Jamaica Observer from her home in Canada.

As fate would have it, the transfer to Arizona State for the fall season came at an opportune time for Hylton-Pelaia, who was virtually at her wits' end as she yearned for competitive action.

“After surgery and rehab, I returned to ECU for a fifth year in the fall of 2020, but as a result of the virus, the 2020 season was cancelled and so I was unable to have a senior season. Nevertheless, I continued to train with the ECU team and aspired to either play overseas or transfer to another school for my final season of eligibility,” Hylton-Pelaia, who graduated ESU in December with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, shared.

“So I am excited to be transferring to Arizona State University as a graduate student to continue my soccer career while getting a master's degree in biology. I am looking forward to new beginnings at ASU as the school and programme seem like a great fit for me and I am excited to play at such a competitive level,” the Brampton, Ontario native added.

Hylton-Pelaia, 22, who earns her Jamaican stripes through her father Gary Hylton, is expected to be a great addition to the Graham Winkworth-coached ASU in the summer, having flourished during her time at ECU where she recorded two goals and five assists for the Pirates, prior to her injury in the 2019 season.

“Her crossing delivery is wonderful and she has the pace to cause opposing teams a lot of problems. She is a solid defender and will add quality, depth and competition to an area of the pitch we have looked to bolster in the off season,” Winkworth noted.

With that in mind, the tough tackling right full back, who loves to go forward, is well aware of the responsibility that comes with her transfer and it is one that she embraces with full focus on her commitment to her body.

“The competitive level within the team and Pac-12 conference will be demanding but I am excited for the challenge. I hope I can bring a positive impact to the team with high energy and experience. So I will continue to train and prepare during the spring and summer to be ready for the fall season,” Hylton-Pelaia declared.

The 5'4” player, who started all four games Pan Am games in Lima for the then Hue Menzies-coached side Reggae Girlz unit which finished in seventh place, is also anticipating a return to the national set up for the World Cup qualifiers later this year.

“I am excited and ready for the next opportunity to represent Jamaica, but for now I hope to have a successful and fun senior year both in the classroom and on the field,” the cheerful Hylton-Pelaia, who first represented Jamaica at the Under-20 level, said.

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