If you get the chance to play soccer in college, you must be good. To be able to get playing time for all four years is even better, but if you get to represent the country of your parents’ origin it must be something pretty special, which is exactly what former Eastern Michigan University forward Ashley Rodrigues has been given.
The reigning Mid-American Conference player of the year is now the captain of the Guyana national team, which she describes in one word as “amazing.”
She adds, ”That’s where (my parents) came from… it’s just nice to give back to something that was so important to them growing up as kids.”
The Guyana women’s team has upcoming home and home playoff games against Cuba starting June 26 and ending July 3, with the playoffs deciding who gets the final spot in the 2010 Women’s Gold Cup.
The Guyana team is new, having gotten under way nearly one year ago, but Rodrigues describes it like it was college all over again.
“There were 22 new players that you had to get to know, but since then we’ve grown so much as a team and built so many friendships,” she said.
Transitioning from college to national team may seem like a big leap, but Rodrigues, says it wasn’t as hard as one may think.
“The MAC is such a good conference,” she said.
She credits it for her movement from EMU to representing Guyana, where she says one of the biggest things she’s noticed is how “the speed of play at the national level is high, so it really helps to push myself and my new team.
“It helps to see what we need to do to get better as a new program, playing already established teams and countries,” she said.
En route to their upcoming playoff with the Cubans, Rodrigues and her team beat Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines in their first round games. They won against Barbados and Saint Lucia by a combined 11-0 before losing 3-0 to established Trinidad and Tobago to set up the playoff.
“That game [against Trinidad and Tobago] was a really big eye opener for us,” Rodrigues said. “We were on this high of beating teams and moving on and then we suffer this loss and everyone’s like ‘well wait a second, we are beatable.’ ”
Ashley isn’t worried at all. She says they’re prepared for the game and not going in over confident.
“This is the final game before that Gold Cup and we do want that final spot.”
Surprisingly, she’s had no contact with any professional teams, but she states the Gold Cup is a “good showcase” for teams to see future stars.
If Guyana beats Cuba, it advances to the Gold Cup, which starts in October. The top two teams from that tournament automatically qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup, while the third place team will duke it out in a playoff against a European team for a spot in the World Cup.