By RON FANFAIR
While history is not one of her favourite subjects, Canadian youth soccer player Zovel Hyre’s name has been etched into Philadelphia’s LaSalle University’s records before the freshman plays her first game.
The Birchmount Collegiate Exceptional Athlete program graduate and Nepean’s Lia Blake are the university’s first international players. LaSalle, which failed to make the post-season in 2008, competes in the Atlantic 10 Division.
“When you think about how long the women’s soccer program has been around and the many talented athletes who have been part of it, I am honoured to know that I and another Canadian are the first players to be recruited from outside the United States,” said Hyre, who was awarded a full scholarship. “I think that says a lot about Canadian soccer and the fact that scouts are now coming to this country and finding capable recruits for their programs.”
LaSalle’s coach, Paul Royal, spotted Hyre while on a scouting trip at the Umbro Top Rated Invitational Soccer College showcase tournament in Mississauga in May 2008. She was representing the Wexford Jaguars which she has been with for the past five years.
“Zovel brings in a wealth of experience having played for the Under-20 and Under-17 Jamaican national teams,” he said. “Her tenacious one-on-one defending will immediately improve our overall team’s defensive mentality. We feel that with her commitment to becoming the best defender on the field that it will give her the opportunity to compete for a starting spot right away. We also feel very confident that with the addition of Zovel’s speed, athleticism and defensive presence, she will have the potential to not only impact our program, but also the Atlantic 10 Conference.”
Several other American universities tried to recruit Hyre, and she and her family paid visits to Western Illinois University, Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York and LaSalle.
An aspiring pediatrician, Hyre said she chose LaSalle because the coaching staff and players made her feel welcomed on her first visit, professors – and not graduate students – teach classes of a maximum 20 students and almost 98 per cent of the university’s applicants to medical school who have been recommended by the pre-medical committee have been admitted.
“The fact that I felt at home when I visited was crucial,” said Hyre who will pursue Biological Science and Criminal Justice (minor) studies. “But more important, it’s an institution that has a very good pre-health professional program that helps support students interested in pursuing entrance into medical school. That appealed to me and made the choice of where I should attend easy.”
Born in Jamaica, Hyre came to Canada at age three with her family in 1994 and resided in Scarborough for 15 years before moving to Markham last year. The outstanding athlete, French Immersion student and Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing Pascal Grade Nine Math winner represented Birchmount Collegiate in the 100- and 200-metre sprints and long jump at the 2005 Ontario Federation of Schools Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track and field championships and in soccer in Grade Nine and Ten when her school finished third on both occasions.
She missed the OFSAA soccer tournament last year, answering a call to represent Jamaica in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) Under-20 and Under-17 championships in Mexico and Tobago respectively.
“That was an entirely new experience for me that I enjoyed even though the teams did not do well,” said Hyre, the Under-17 side co-captain who was on her first visit back to the island. “I loved the food and it was a most enjoyable six weeks.”
Jamaica lost to Mexico 6-0, Canada 4-3 and Puerto Rico 2-1 in the first ever regional Under-17 tournament, and to Costa Rica and Canada by 3-1 margins before shutting out Nicaragua 6-0 in the Under-20 series.
Hyre, whose father and older brother – Everton and Terron – ran track and played soccer, says she would welcome an invitation to be part of the national program.
“It’s something I will like to be associated with,” said Hyre who was selected to the Atlantic 10 Conference pre-season all-rookie team. “That, along with playing the game at the professional level and making it in med school, are my main priorities. I know it’s going to be a challenge juggling all of these things, but I know I can do them.”
Hyre’s proud parents plan to attend some of their daughter’s games.
“Most of her home games will be played on Fridays and Sundays, so that will give us an opportunity to catch two of her games on a trip,” said mom Shirley who was in Tobago for last year’s CONCACAF Under-17 championships. “We have always been with her, taking her to games and her practices and it’s not going to stop now that she’s moving away from us. We will not be at every game, but we will be there to support her when we can.”
Hyre leaves for LaSalle on August 9, and the team’s first game will be at Drexel 16 days later.