On Friday, Canada’s U-17 national team will take on the United States with a chance to qualify for the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.
It’s a big game, but it’s a pressure that several girls on the team have experienced before.
In 2014, Canada won the CONCACAF U-15 Championship in a penalty shootout over Haiti.
Four members of the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX program were on that U-15 team and are now representing Canada at the U-17 level: defenders Julia Grosso and Emma Regan, and strikers Camila Gomez and Jordyn Huitema.
In fact, it was Huitema who scored the deciding penalty kick to capture the gold medal in 2014.
“It’s the best feeling in the world when you can represent your country,” said Huitema while thinking back to that victorious moment.
The 14-year-old from Chilliwack, BC is a rising young player with both the ‘Caps and Canada. She is the second member of her family to suit up for the Blue and White after older brother Brody, who took part in the Residency program and is now playing at Duke University.
“Soccer was kind of introduced to me by my brother,” tells Huitema. “I felt like he was someone who could teach me, someone to learn from. And my parents encouraged me to play sports. They weren’t showing me what direction to go, but I just naturally fell into soccer.”
From the U-15 national team, and now to U-17, Huitema is working hard to rise through the ranks. This past fall, she was rewarded with an opportunity to train with Canada’s senior women’s national team.
“When I was told that I was going to train with them I didn’t hear half of the conversation,” remembers Huitema. “I probably blacked out standing up. I had to call my coach later on and ask whether that actually happened.”
Huitema’s idol is Christine Sinclair. She calls the experience of suiting up beside her “nerve-wracking”, but also a great honour.
“She’s someone you see on TV and you think ‘wow, I really want to be like her when I grow up,’” said Huitema. “I never thought I’d be playing with her, so it was just awesome to learn from her.”
Huitema credits much of her success to her coaches with Whitecaps FC, and they’ve noticed her progress. According to Girls Elite REX head coach Emma Humphries, Huitema’s success is well deserved.
“She’s a great kid,” said Humphries. “She’s brilliant in the classroom and one of the hardest working in the group as well. On the field, she’s just a competitor, she wants to win everything. I’m not surprised how well she’s done, and we’ll continue to work with her to improve.”
“I have big dreams,” adds Huitema. “I want to make it to the senior national team and play with them at World Cups and Olympics one day.”
And who knows, maybe one day another young 14-year-old prospect will have the nerve-wracking honour of training with Jordyn Huitema.
By Jaione Belza Guede & Emilie Rauschuetz