April 23, 2002
CHICAGO - The U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team head coach Tracey Leone named Santa Clara University women's soccer freshmen Jessica Ballweg and Leslie Osborne as two of the 18 players who will represent the USA at the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament to be held May 7-11, 2002, on the islands of Trinidad & Tobago. The winners of the two groups in the tournament will earn berths to the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship to be held Aug. 17 - Sept. 1, in Canada.
"This team is on a mission," said Leone, who 11 years ago to this day was a member of the U.S. team that opened qualifying on another Caribbean island (Haiti) as the U.S. Women's National Team went on to earn a berth at the 1991 Women's World Cup. "The first part is to qualify for Canada. The team knows there is no August without May, so we are extremely excited about the chance to compete for a spot in a world championship. The team is bouncing off the walls, but they know they must focus on the first game and do what we need to do."
Leone looked at 54 players in game action over the past 16 months of preparation for the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament and has assembled a team of some of most talented young players in U.S. history. Leone named five college freshman, eight high school seniors, three high school juniors and two high school sophomores to her roster. Should the U.S. qualify, she will have another three months to evaluate her team before picking a final roster for the 12-team world championship tournament to be held in Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria, Canada. The U19s have never lost an international match in their two-year history, compiling an 8-0-1 mark, and in those matches have outscored the opposition 44-2.
"The development of this team is a reflection of the tremendous investment from the U.S. Soccer Federation," said Leone. "The players and staff certainly realize and appreciate how fortunate we are to be given the resources to train and prepare for this historic event. U.S. Soccer has made this team a priority and I think the team has given back that same enthusiasm. As a coaching staff, our job is fifty percent to prepare them to qualify and win a world championship and fifty percent to prepare them for the next level. I think we have accomplished great things on both sides."
In the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament, the USA will play in Group B with Suriname, Haiti and Costa Rica. Group A will consist of host T & T, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama. The top two teams in both groups will qualify for the FIFA U-19 World Championship. Group A will play on the island of Trinidad at the Dr. Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence while Group B will play on the island of Tobago at Dwight Yorke Stadium, built for the 2001 FIFA U-17 Men's World Championship. The complete qualifying schedule is attached.
The Under-19s recently announced a major initiative to use the run to the FIFA U19 Women's World Championship as a platform to help raise awareness for the prevention of skin cancer. As a young team, playing outdoors every day, the team has partnered with The Skin Foundation to spread the word through clinics, appearances at schools and interaction with the media. The U.S. U-19 Women have made it a team goal to inform the public that almost all skin cancers are preventable and curable when detected and treated early.
"I feel lucky to have the opportunity to play with these girls and represent the United States," said U.S. captain Lindsay Tarpley. "Our success on the field is definitely a reflection of our great chemistry off the field. We work very hard for each other because we know the person next to us is going to fight to the end. Part of that can be seen in our coming together to support the prevention of skin cancer. We feel that as role models we can inspire young girls on the field and in their everyday lives."
In defense, the U.S. was struck a blow by an ankle injury to team captain Keeley Dowling, who will miss the qualifying tournament, but Leone has plenty of strong options in the back. Both midfielders Jill Oakes and Leslie Osborne are also talented central defenders, with outside backs Kendall Fletcher, Jessica Ballweg, Jessica Trainor and Rachel Buehler all tremendous ball winners who have the talent and drive to get forward.
RosterGoalkeepers: Kim Bingham, Ashlyn Harris, Defenders: Jessica Ballweg, Rachel Buehler, Kendall Fletcher, Jessica Trainor, Midfielders: Lori Chalupny, Allison Graham, Sarah Huffman, Manya Makoski, Jill Oakes, Leslie Osborne, Annie Schefter, Forwards: Kerri Hanks, Megan Kakadelas, Heather O'Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley, Kelly Wilson.
Following are brief introductions to the players who will attempt to qualify the U.S. Under-19 Women 's National Team for the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship.
Jessica Ballweg, Defender: The New Jersey product may have the most youth national team experience of anyone on the squad. She played a major role in the Santa Clara Broncos' 2001 NCAA title run at right back. With a tremendous will to attack, she will be looked to for goals and her usual rock-solid defense.
Kim Bingham, Goalkeeper: Athletic and strong, the high school junior from Northern California is in a battle with Ashlyn Harris for the #1 spot.
Rachel Buehler, Defender: The high school junior made a strong run late in the process to earn a roster spot. A tireless runner and crunching tackler, she can play on the flank or in the middle.
Lori Chalupny, Midfielder: One of the most skillful young players in the country, her dynamic play in midfield will be a key to the team's success. She has represented the USA at the U-21 and full National Team levels. She is headed to the University of North Carolina next fall.
Kendal Fletcher, Defender: A powerful ball-winner on the ground and in the air, Fletcher will be counted on to solidify one of the flanks. She is headed to the University of North Carolina next fall.
Alison Graham, Midfielder: Wonderfully creative and fearless in the center of the pitch, Graham adds spunk and rhythm to the midfield. She is headed to Clemson University in the fall.
Kerri Hanks, Forward: The speedy striker overcame a shoulder separation in March to make the team. Deceptively strong, the high school sophomore will add depth to the forward line.
Ashlyn Harris, Goalkeeper: The high school sophomore is tremendously acrobatic and is excellent with her feet. She is in a battle with Kim Bingham for the #1 spot.
Sarah Huffman, Midfielder: Hailing from Flower Mound, Texas, the gritty and determined high school senior is willing to do the dirty work in midfield. She will be counted on for her defense and consistency. She is headed to University of Virginia in the fall.
Megan Kakadelas, Forward: Evoking comparisons to England's Steve McManaman and Wales' Ryan Giggs, she is a devastatingly unorthodox yet effective dribbler with an innate will to run at goal. The USC Trojan was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2001.
Manya Makoski, Midfielder: A glider with the ball, she is a slick dribbler and passer and a player with the unique talents to play flank midfield. Makoski hails from a Connecticut, home state of another talented flank player by the name of Kristine Lilly. She is headed to Arizona State in the fall.
Jill Oakes, Midfielder: A dominating player in the midfield or in the back, she possesses great skills, strength and balance. The Gatorade High School Player of the Year from Harvard-Westlake, Oakes played a key role in the U.S. Under-21 National Team's triumph at the last summer's Nordic Cup, scoring against Germany to put the USA in the championship game. She will stay at home for college as she is headed to UCLA in the fall.
Heather O'Reilly, Forward: With a tireless will to run and an insatiable hunger for the goal, O'Reilly forms part of the new Triple Edge Sword. The high school junior with world-class speed earned her first three caps for the full U.S. Women's National Team at the Algarve Cup in March.
Leslie Osborne, Midfielder: Ball-winner, exquisite passer, goal scorer, leader -- Osborne can do it all. As a freshman, she played a major role for the Santa Clara Broncos in their run to the NCAA title last season, scoring 13 goals with 17 assists.
Annie Schefter, Midfielder: A versatile midfielder with tremendous play-making ability, good heading and scoring bite, Schefter emerged in 2002 as a valuable player for the U-19s. She is headed to Notre Dame in the fall.
Lindsay Tarpley, Forward: An extremely sharp blade on the new Triple Edge Sword, Tarpley will captain the team. She has scored nine goals in 13 U-19 internationals and is headed to the University of North Carolina in the fall.
Jessica Trainor, Defender: A central midfielder during her freshman year at the University of Virginia, Trainor is a great passer who will play in the back for the USA, where she is talented at starting attacks.
Kelly Wilson, Forward: Strong and fast, the third edge of the new Triple Edge Sword can run at a defense from both flanks and up the middle. She scored for the USA in her first-ever appearance for the full U.S. Women's National Team against England at the Algarve Cup. The Big-12 Rookie of the Year for Texas, she was named NSCAA Second-Team All-American, and was the U-19s leading scorer in 2001 with eight goals in five full U-19 internationals.