Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 team head coach Dernelle Mascall leads a 21-member squad to Curaçao today as they prepare to launch their 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship at the qualifying stage.
Trinidad and Tobago face the Cayman Islands from 3pm (local and TT Time) at the Rignaal Jean Francisca Stadium in Willemstad on Saturday in their Group D opener. They will then tackle Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico next Monday and Wednesday.
In a welcome departure from recent tournaments, all teams must face a qualifying series to get to the Concacaf Championship—barring the United States and Mexico, who received byes based on the curious reasoning of being the confederation’s two top ranked teams.
Once more the draw has been relatively kind to Trinidad and Tobago.
With only group winners advancing to the Concacaf Championship, Canada are grouped with El Salvador and Cuba, Haiti drew Panama, Curaçao and St Kitts and Nevis, Costa Rica have Guatemala and Nicaragua for company, and Jamaica and Honduras share Group E.
The junior Women Soca Warriors have a relatively serene group in comparison, as they try to rebound from catastrophic performances in 2022.
At the last Concacaf Women’s Under-20 tournament, Trinidad and Tobago lost all three group matches to El Salvador (3-0), St Kitts and Nevis (7-2) and Canada (5-0) respectively.
And, at the 2022 Concacaf Women’s Under-17 competition, the two-island republic had a similar experience with successive losses to Panama (5-1), Nicaragua (4-0), and Mexico (10-0). Jason Spence coached both Trinidad and Tobago teams.
The most obvious change under Mascall so far comes in terms of personnel, with only six National Under-17 players from the 2022 squad progressing to the Under-20 level.
Holy Faith Convent (Couva) goalkeeper Sadiel Antoine retained her squad place along with Mason Hall Secondary utility player Jada Graham, Tranquility Secondary midfielder Jeniecia Benjamin and the foreign-based trio of defender Cicely-Anne Spencer-Wickham (St Robert Catholic High School—Canada) and midfielders Nikita Jackson (Keller High School—USA and Marley Walker (James Island Charter High School—USA).
Walker, who captained the national team at Under-17 level in 2022, is the only survivor from Trinidad and Tobago’s Concacaf Under-20 Championship.
“We believe that the squad selected is made up of the best players available to us at this time,” Mascall told the TTFA Media. “We managed to get a fair amount of screening done at the start after which we brought the players together to begin specific preparations before cutting to the final squad.
“All in all, I have to give credit to the players for their commitment and enthusiasm over the entire preparation phase.”
Mascall’s team comprises four players who are just 14-years-old: defender Kaitlyn Darwent (St Joseph’s Convent, POS), midfielder Orielle Martin (Bishop Anstey East), and goalkeepers Mikaela Yearwood (St Joseph’s Convent, POS) and Antoine.
The precocious Antoine was just 13-years-old when she faced Mexico at the 2022 Concacaf Under-17 Championship.
Another four players only turned 15 earlier this year: defender Kanika Rodriguez (St Augustine Secondary), midfielders Rasheda Archer (South East Secondary) and Cherina Steele (Woodbrook Secondary), and attacker Athena Jackson (Keller High School—USA).
Jackson is the younger sister of 16-year-old Nikita Jackson, who is also in the squad.
“We have […] included a few players who came through the High Performance U-15 program as they have shown a lot of maturity and progression,” said Mascall. “Now it’s about getting these ladies to settle down as quickly as possible in a new environment when we arrive there.
“I know they are all very eager to do their best and represent the country to the best of their ability.”
The Sister Isle is often well represented at national women’s level and there are five Tobago players in the current squad—a rise from three on the National Under-17 team last year.
Defenders Sharika Charles (Scarborough Secondary) and Jada Graham (Mason Hall Secondary), midfielder Carissa Cowan (Goodwood Secondary), and attackers J’Eleisha Alexander (Scarborough Secondary) and Talia Martin (Speyside High Secondary) will all wear national colours in Curaçao.
If successful, Trinidad and Tobago will advance to the eight-team Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic from 24 May—from which the top three finishers qualify to the 2024 Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
The TTFA thanked the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) and the Ministry of Sport and Community Development for “[their] support through a financial contribution towards the team’s participation at these qualifiers in Curaçao”.
Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Under-20 Team
Goalkeepers: Sadiel Antoine (Holy Faith Convent, Couva), Sophia Keel (South Torrance High School—USA), Mikaela Yearwood (St Joseph’s Convent, POS);
Defenders: Shakira Charles (Scarborough Secondary), Kaitlyn Darwent (St Joseph’s Convent, POS), Jada Graham (Mason Hall Secondary), Anastasia O’Brien (Tranquility Secondary), Kanika Rodriguez (St Augustine Secondary), Cicely-Anne Spencer-Wickham (St Robert Catholic High School—Canada),
Midfielders: Rasheda Archer (South East Secondary), Jeniecia Benjamin (Tranquility Secondary), Carissa Cowan (Goodwood Secondary), Jessica Harragin (Holy Name Convent, POS), Nikita Jackson (Keller High School—USA), Orielle Martin (Bishop Anstey East), Cherina Steele (Woodbrook Secondary), Marley Walker (James Island Charter High School—USA),
Forwards: J’eleisha Alexander (Scarborough Secondary), Athena Jackson (Keller High School—USA), Talia Martin (Speyside High Secondary), Mariah Williams (Corpus Christo High).
Staff: Dernelle Mascall (head coach), Simone Edwards (manager), Ayana Russell (assistant coach/ trainer), Rajesh Latchoo (assistant coach), Declan Squires (goalkeeper coach), Raquel Russell (equipment manager), Kern Meloney (physiotherapist), Kristin Fung (team doctor).