Feb. 20, 2008
Tallahassee, Fla. - Florida State women's soccer was well represented as the U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team opened camp on January 19 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Sophomore Becky Edwards and freshmen Amanda DaCosta and Ella Stephan were three of 28 players that were called into the first camp of the 2008 season by then head coach Jillian Ellis. Despite a change in the coaching ranks, all three Seminoles remain in contention for a roster spot as the squad will be cut to 18 players for the U-20 Women's World Cup to be held November 20 - December 7 in Chile.
As camp opened in January, the roster was made up primarily of college players with 10 of those players competing in the 2007 College Cup including three from NCAA champion Southern California, NCAA runner-up Florida State and UCLA. Edwards is one player on the 2008 roster looking for a second go around with the U-20 team as she represented the United States at the Pan-Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July of 2007. Edwards started every game for her native country playing all 90 minutes in five of those six contests as she helped lead the U.S. to a silver medal. For DaCosta and Stephan, this will be the first time that either student-athlete will play with the U-20 National Team. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," explained DaCosta.
"It's really cool to get a chance to play with the different college players and see their style of play compared to ours," explained Edwards. "I'm one of the older players this year, so I have had to take on more of a leadership role which I enjoy. Plus, it's nice to be able to share this experience with Amanda and Ella."
During the eight-day training camp in Carson, both Edwards and DaCosta saw playing time at the center midfield position while Stephan trained at center back. DaCosta played all 27 games in the midfield for the Seminoles in her first season, while Stephan is expected to see time as either a defender or midfielder in 2008. As a solid force in the backfield for Florida State over the past two seasons, the position move may seem to be a change for Edwards, but the Downingtown, Pa., native grew up playing in the midfield and enjoys what both positions have to offer.
"I like the center mid position and I enjoying playing center back at FSU," said Edwards. "The style of play from the national team to Florida State is quite different. Mark (Krikorian) gives us (the defenders) a lot of freedom to go forward, while with the national team the defenders are restricted to just defending and really do not get the chance to go down the field as much."
While out in California, all three players had the chance to play with each other during scheduled scrimmages. It was the first time since Stephan arrived on campus in January as a mid-year enrollee that all three student-athletes have been on the field at the same time during competition. Stephan graduated early from Satellite High School to get a jump start on her collegiate career.
"We were out there encouraging each other and pushing one another to do the best we could possibly do," stated DaCosta. "Our experience playing together at the national level will only help us in the future."
As the training camp came to a close out in California, the U.S. team made an adjustment of their own naming Tony DiCicco as head coach of the U.S. U-20 team. DiCicco replaces Ellis who was named an assistant coach on the full national team by Pia Sundhage. DiCicco served as the national team coach from 1994-1999 and won 103 matches during his tenure including the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 1999 Women's World Cup.
"I don't know him personally, but I remember training with him when I was younger," said Edwards. "I would attend his camp and always remember telling myself, `Oh, wow that is the National Team coach'."
"He has seen a lot of soccer and has been through a lot, dealing with the world's best players," stated DaCosta. "It's pretty cool that he is going to be our new coach."
Following the first camp, all three Seminoles were invited to continue their training with the U-20 squad. The girls credit each other for making the first round of training an easy transition. Just having someone there that you know and can talk to goes a long way.
"It's always nice to have someone you are familiar with to warm-up with at the field and hang out with after practice is over," explained Stephan. "With this being my first training camp with the U-20's, having Becky and Amanda around definitely helped me settle in a lot faster."
The U-20 squad next traveled to LaSerena, Chile as the team continued to prepare for CONCACAF Qualifying for the 2008 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup. The United States joined England, Norway and host Chile for the Four Nations Tournament.
"I am definitely excited about going to Chile," exclaimed Stephan. "This is going to be a great opportunity to play a few countries and to gain some valuable experience of playing with the U-20 team. The tournament should feature some good games and I feel we have a great chance of doing really well."
Although Edwards, DaCosta and Stephan were all invited to travel to Chile, Stephan was the only Seminole to make trip. The U.S. went 3-0 at the Four Nations Tournament defeating England 1-0 in the opening game. The Red, White and Blue then hung on for a 2-1 victory over Norway before finishing the tournament with a 5-1 victory over Chile. Stephan started against Chile and played all 90 minutes in the U.S. win.
The U-20 team will next visit Cyprus in March as part of their continuing training efforts for qualification for the Women's World Cup.