Inspiring a Nation

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • August 04, 2014 04:34 PM
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Ashley Lawrence, one of three Mountaineers on the Canada U-20 women's soccer team, is excited to compete for the World Cup in front of a home crowd.
  Canadian Women's Soccer photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - On the eve of one of the biggest competitions of her young career, sophomore Kadeisha Buchanan of the West Virginia University women’s soccer team is in awe of the big picture.
Stationed in Toronto, Ontario, and training with the Canadian Women’s U-20 National Team in preparation for this month’s 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada, Buchanan, a defender out of Brampton, Ontario, recalled a story recently shared between teammates.
“Only two sets of people earn the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf – the army to protect the nation and the athletes to inspire the nation,” she said. “I am truly honored to wear the Maple Leaf on my jersey, and I am blessed and fortunate to be one of the 21 players selected to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil.”
Buchanan is one of three Mountaineers who will don the Canadian colors in the much-anticipated international competition, as sophomore Ashley Lawrence and redshirt-freshman Amandine Pierre-Louis also will represent Canada after months of training.
“Since the moment I found out that this World Cup would be held in Canada, I have been filled with many emotions – mainly excitement and joy,” said Lawrence, a forward and native of Toronto. “Not many people can say they have played in a world competition in their own country. I have talked to my family and friends, and they continue to remind me how excited they are to watch me play. That encouragement provides me with good pressure to perform well for them and the rest of the country.”
This month’s U-20 World Cup is far from the first time this trio has earned the right to represent their nation on a world stage. All members of the Canadian Women’s U-17 National Team in 2012, they have steadily moved through the ranks over the last several years. Buchanan and Lawrence are now entrenched with the full National Team, with Buchanan earning 14 starts over the last two seasons.
In May, Buchanan, a NSCAA/Continental Tire All-America Second Team honoree and the 2013 Big 12 Conference Defender and Newcomer of the Year, tallied her first international goal with the full National Team, putting a header past the United States’ Hope Solo in a 1-1 draw in Vancouver, British Columbia. As brilliant as that moment was, she pictures this month’s tournament generating greater memories.
“I’m been looking forward to this tournament and playing in front of my home crowd,” she explained. “We have an opportunity to play in front of our family and friends. We want to inspire young soccer players everywhere.”
All three Mountaineers will have plenty of support in the stands, with each listing dozens of family members who have pledged to cheer loudly in the stadiums.
Pierre-Louis, a native of Montreal, Quebec, is particularly anxious for this opportunity, as she has seen limited action on the field throughout the last year, as she sat out the 2013 season at WVU.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in front of my country and to have all the fans for me and not against me,” the forward said. “This is a huge opportunity for my family and friends to see why I had to sacrifice so much and work so hard.”
Though they won’t be in the stands, the trio also can count on the support of Mountaineer Nation, especially their WVU teammates who will follow the action in Morgantown throughout preseason camp.
“Out of respect for the competition these three are prepping for, I want to make sure their focus is on winning the World Cup,” said 19-year Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “Having said that, they have an entire team here in Morgantown cheering for them, thinking of them and wishing them the best. We’ll be waiting with open arms for them.”  
Lawrence knows first-hand that she can always count on her Mountaineer mentor.   
“I talk to coach on a regular basis, and she always has encouraging words to share,” she explained. “Especially moving into the tournament, she has expressed how proud and excited she is to watch me represent my country at the U-20 World Cup. I know that she will always be a constant support in my life in regards to soccer, or whatever the case. I am fortunate to have her as a coach because she is very genuine and amazing.”
“The support that we receive from WVU is great,” Pierre-Louis echoed. “I think it’s important for international athletes to see that.”
“I’m cheering loud and proud for these three,” Izzo-Brown finished. “I’m their biggest fan right now.”
Boosted by encouragement in Morgantown and at home, these Mountaineers are ready to see their hard work and training lessons translate into success on Canadian soil this month. While hoisting the trophy in Montreal on Aug. 24 is the obvious goal, all three believe inspiring a nation – whether it be Canadian or Mountaineer – is the truest reward.
“I hope we can create history and give a certain legacy to the youngest players that will be in the program in the near future,” Pierre-Louis said.
“The fact that this World Cup is being played on my home soil makes me feel obligated to put on an exceptional performance and win the World Cup,” Lawrence emphatically stated. “I always think about how inspired I felt, watching our full National Team succeed at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and win the Bronze medal. That’s the feeling I want fellow Canadians to have when they see us compete this month.”
Slotted in Group A, the Canadians open play on Aug. 5 against Ghana. Kick is set for 8 p.m. at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto. The team will meet Finland on Friday, Aug. 8, also at 8 p.m. at the National Soccer Stadium, before concluding group stage against Korea DPR on Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m., at Olympic Stadium, in Montreal.
The top two teams from the four groups advance to the knockout round, with action set to begin on Aug. 16. The championship and third-place match will take place on Sunday, Aug. 24, at Olympic Stadium.


WVU, FIFA U-20 World Cup, Canada, Women's Soccer

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