Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team head coach Jason Spence is counting on the experience of his core group of players to be decisive in the Dominican Republic, as he targets a spot in the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship Round of 16.
Right-back Chrissy Mitchell, central defender Latifha Pascall, midfielder Sarah De Gannes and attackers Tori Paul and Maria-Frances Serrant were all starting players two years ago when the junior Women Soca Warriors got to the quarterfinals of the Under-20 competition. And goalkeeper Chelsea Ramnauth, defender Moenesa Mejias and attacker Celine Loraine were used as substitutes in the same competition.
All eight players return to the competition this year while Spence added a United States-born pair of midfielder Marley Walker and forward Jhelysse Anthony.
Serrant, who scored for the Women’s Senior National Team against Dominica yesterday, is also now based in the United States along with De Gannes, Mitchell, Pascall, Paul and goalkeeper Akyla Walcott.
Spence was hired and began screening just two months ago while Trinidad and Tobago’s domestic leagues have been closed since March 2020. As a result, the coach said he will lean heavily on the young women who have got more playing time in the USA.
“The good thing about the group who is coming from abroad, they were part of the last cycle of this U20 tournament, so they are bringing that experience,” Spence told the TTFA Media. “[…] Definitely they will bring more maturity to it and hopefully, by the third game of the round, we will be right where we want to be to take us to the next phase of the competition.”
Trinidad and Tobago are grouped with El Salvador, St Kitts and Nevis and Canada, whom they play in that order. The top three nations advance to the Round of 16 while only the bottom-placed team will be eliminated.
Essentially, Spence’s team must win just one of three group matches to move to the next phase.
The top three teams of the entire Concacaf competition qualify automatically for the 2022 Under-20 World Cup, which will be hosted by Costa Rica.
Spence praised the effort and character of his charges and said his players are excited about the challenge ahead. Over recent weeks, he has been briefing the US-based girls on what is expected of them in terms of fitness and tactics.
Now, he has to put all the pieces together.
“The time to get the team ready has been short,” said Spence. “We have been demanding on them because we had to work with them both physically and tactically.
“It was quite a bit of a challenge in as much as we haven’t played football in two years… We feel pretty good about the way they’ve responded.”
The Under-20 Women will mirror the tactical approach of the Senior Team and Spence said there has been constant dialogue and synergy with senior coach Kenwyne Jones. Both national teams were camped at the TTFA Home of Football in Couva and the Under-20s looked on from the stands as the Women Soca Warriors opened their campaign with a 2-1 win over Nicaragua last Thursday.
Now, it is time for the U-20s to get their own campaign going.
(Trinidad and Tobago Team)
Goalkeepers: Chelsea Ramnauth (Police FC), Aaliyah Alexander (Jewels FC), Akyla Walcott (Essex County College—USA);
Defenders: Moenesa Mejias (Trincity Nationals), Latifha Pascall (Navaro College—USA), Chrissy Mitchell (Southwestern Christian University—USA), Ashante Wilson-Campbell, Derisha Bristol (both Jewels FC);
Midfielders: Sarah De Gannes (Brewton-Parker College—USA), Marley Walker (Charleston Soccer Club—USA), Aaliyah Trim (FC Ginga), Darrianne Henry, Celine Loraine (both Jewels FC), Charlize Hood (Police FC), Lellian Selvon (Trincity Nationals), Tori Paul (University of Maryland—USA), Maria-Frances Serrant (Corban University—USA), Ternia St Clair (UTT Patriots);
Forwards: Shurelia Mendez, Jhelysse Anthony (both unattached).
Staff: Jason Spence (head coach), Trevor Nottingham (goalkeeper coach), Desiree Sarjeant (assistant coach), Vernetta Flanders (manager), Donna-Marie Wickham (therapist), Ashley Alonso (trainer), Natalie Harper (equipment manager), Kristin Fung (team doctor)
(Group G Fixtures)
Trinidad and Tobago vs El Salvador, 4pm, 25 February, Estadio Pan Americano, San Cristóbal;
Trinidad and Tobago vs St Kitts and Nevis, 4pm, 27 February, Estadio Pan Americano, San Cristóbal.
Trinidad and Tobago vs Canada, 7pm, 1 March, Estadio Pan Americano, San Cristóbal.