There is a day in everyone’s lives that will be etched in people’s minds forever.
Monday, April, 27, 2015 will most likely be that day for Greater Toronto Area (GTA) teenagers Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence.
Not only did the close friends and soccer teammates make the Canadian roster for this summer’s International Soccer Federation (FIFA) World Cup in Canada, but the sophomores became the first active West Virginia University (WVU) players to be named to a national World Cup team.
“That’s awesome and crazy,” said Buchanan when Share informed her of the historic milestone. “That is going to put our school on the map and hopefully it will help recruit more quality players to our school.”
The school wasted no time in lauding the Canadians’ achievement.
“I am so proud of the hard work and effort Ashley and Kadeisha put in over the last few months to make the Canadian World Cup team,” said Nikki Izzo-Brown, who is the only head coach in the WVU women’s soccer program’s 19-year history. “They have sacrificed so much to achieve their goal of representing their country at this high level. I know West Virginia University, the WVU athletic department and the women’s soccer program are so proud to have two elite soccer players be part of our West Virginia family. The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the highest level of soccer and to have two Mountaineers competing is so incredible and an enormous accomplishment.”
The youngest of seven girls raised by their mother and a dynamic centre back, 19-year-old Buchanan is the reigning two-time Canadian Under-20 Player of the Year. She has started all but three of her 34 matches with the national team since making her debut in the 2013 Yongchuan Cup tournament in China.
“While I have been a member of the national team for two years, to make the World Cup roster is a dream come true for me,” said Buchanan, who is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants. “I am so excited for this opportunity to be playing alongside the best women players in Canada and the world.”
The 23-member roster unveiled in Vancouver last week includes veteran goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who is a mentor to Buchanan, who scored her first international goal against the United States in Manitoba in May 2014.
“Karina is very experienced and smart and she has many great stories which I love to hear,” said Buchanan. “She’s also confident, outgoing and someone I look up to for inspiration. She’s like a big sister to me.”
The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in her first two seasons at WVU and a two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American is looking forward to playing at home in the World Cup.
“I have family in Edmonton and Montreal is close to the GTA where most of my family members reside, so I will get a lot of support from relatives who will be at the venues,” she said. “But, more importantly, we know Canadians will come out in large numbers to cheer for us.”
Buchanan was the recipient of another huge honour two days later when Canada Post issued a new stamp featuring her and veteran Christine Sinclair to mark this country hosting the World Cup.
“The FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 will be a game-changer for women’s sport in Canada,” said Canadian Soccer Association general secretary and FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 national organizing committee chief executive officer, Peter Montopoli. “Today, these two wonderful Canadian athletes have been stamped into history and will forever serve as symbols of Canada’s contribution to the greatest event in women’s sport.”
While they have been friends since age nine, Buchanan and Lawrence ended up at WVU by coincidence.
“We did not commit at the same time,” said Buchanan. “It just happened that we chose the same program and I am so happy that Ashley has been there with me along the way.”
Lawrence, whose mother is from Nova Scotia and her father from Nigeria, is just as excited as Buchanan to be playing in her first World Cup.
“This is a huge honour and it’s satisfying to know that all the hard work I have been putting in has paid off,” said Canada’s top female youth player in 2011 and 2012, who turns 20 in Canada’s second group match against New Zealand at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on June 11. “Before joining the national squad, I admired Diane (Matheson) and Christine (Sinclair) as players. As a midfielder, I respect Diane’s clever style of play. She’s so amazing on the ball and a leader on and off the field. When I joined the squad, Karina became a huge role model for me and someone I could constantly seek out.”
Lawrence, who attended Mayfield Secondary School and Cardinal Leger High School in Brampton, said the national team is physically and emotionally ready for the World Cup.
“Coach John Herdman’s vision for us has been very clear and he has put us in the best possible position to succeed,” she said.
LeBlanc, Sinclair and Matheson are among six players on the roster with more than 100 international appearances at the senior level.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of players here that are ready to step up and proudly represent their country on the biggest stage,” said Herdman. “It’s now up to Canadians to show them they are not alone on this journey and that they’ve got the strength of an entire country with them.”
Following a 10-day break, the national squad reconvenes today for a one-week training camp in California that will include a practice match against the United States before heading to Mexico for a week. They return to the GTA on May 21 to wrap up preparations that will include a friendly match against England in Hamilton on May 29.
Ranked eighth in the world, Canada faces 16th ranked China on June 6 and 17th ranked New Zealand in Edmonton five days later before travelling to Montreal to meet the 12th ranked The Netherlands in its final group contest on June 15.