Girls’ football on the rise, says coach

Cayman Islands: winners of Group 2 of the CFU U14 Girls' Challenge Series 2019

The coaching staff of the Cayman Islands National U14 Girls Team is looking ahead with optimism after winning their group in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Girls’ Under 14 Challenge Series last week.

Entering the final game against St Lucia at Truman Bodden Sports Complex on 9 August, Cayman’s girls needed only not to lose to their Windward Islands opponents to ensure they would top the table.

St Lucia went ahead in the 16th minute when Jerddel King-Emery put the ball past Raeanne Stewart, who pounced forward to deny the initial strike, only to see King-Emery knock the rebound in for the score.

Cayman kept up the pressure, pushing forward for the equaliser but the St Lucian defence did their best to see that off and held on to the 1-0 into the half.

The local girls were clearly frustrated after a couple of questionable calls, including when St Lucia’s keeper Nieasha Edward bobbled the ball and appeared to gather it from inside the goal but no goal was awarded. A tackle on Illiana Romero that saw her leave the field injured just before the half, appeared to be a penalty with referee Suleimy Saez of Cuba gesturing to the spot but then seemingly changed her mind.

Reward would come for Cayman forward Ashlyn Evans, who for the previous two games was a tenacious attacker constantly putting defenders on their heels, as she got a well-deserved goal seven minutes after the restart.

The players celebrate the goal by Ashlyn Evans (5)

Much to the urging of the home crowd, the Cayman girls kept searching for the winner but it would not come. At the final whistle, it was celebration time, as the Cayman Islands and St Lucia finished even on five points but Cayman’s +3 goal difference saw them top St Lucia (+1 goal difference).

Curacao finished third on four points after beating Barbados 1-0 earlier, while Barbados finished fourth on one point.

“They really deserved that. They worked so hard and they’ve been training for this,” said assistant coach Noel Kane.

“I think they were a little nervous at the start. We went back into the dressing room at halftime and pretty much said we thought we were the better team but needed a little more urgency We kept pushing and we changed the formation in the second half…and it paid off in the end,” he added.

President of the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA), Alfredo Whittaker, was all smiles.

“This was a very impressive performance. I’m very proud of them. I’m very excited to see how these little girls fight despite [calls not going their way]. They have a tough opponent and they continued to fight,” Whittaker told Cayman Sports Buzz.

“This is really great for us. We’re very proud and happy,” he added.

The players are joined by (L-R) CIFA Treasurer Armando Ebanks, CIFA President Alfredo Whittaker, and Sports Councillor David Wight for the national song.

The nucleus of this team will stick together as they prepare for the CONCACAF Girls’ U15 Championships in August 2020.

“It’s great preparation for these kids. When you look at the squad, some of these kids are 11 and 12 years old. They’re a really talented group and are getting really good coaching at the moment. Things are looking very good for girls’ football in Cayman,” Kane said.

CFU Girls U14 Challenge Series

Meantime, Cayman prepares to compete in and host Group B of the CONCACAF Women’s U17 Championship from 21-25 August at Truman Bodden Sports Complex. Other participating teams are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Martinique.

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