At CONCACAF women's championships in Dominican Republic, February 22 - March 8
Friday, February 21, 2020
By Rob J. Ross
Kaila Novak is representing Canada again.
The 17-year old from St. Thomas was named to the Canadian roster last week for the 2020 CONCACAF (Confederation of North Central American and Caribbean Association Football) under-20 women's soccer championships, in the Dominican Republic, starting Saturday.
Novak previously played for Team Canada at the 2018 CONCACEF U17 championships, winning a bronze medal and helping Canada finish fourth at the FIFA U17 women's World Cup.
"Hearing the news that I made the U20 team for Canada was like all the other times the best feeling in the world and I told my family and friends that I finally made it," said Novack, from San Cristobal Dominican Republic, where the team is preparing the tournament.
"The first thing going through my head this time wasn't shock or disbelief but rather, what can I do to be the most prepared player and one of the best players on the field. All I could think about for the weeks leading up to this qualifying tournament was how can i go that extra mile because I need to be the best I can possibly be."
The 16-day tournament is a qualifier for the 2020 FIFA World Cup, this summer in Costa Rica and Panama. There are 16 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The top three teams from each of the four groups advance to the knockout round. The two finalists earn a spot at the World Cup.
Canada is in a pool with El Salvador (Saturday, Feb. 22nd, 3 p.m.), Guatemala (Feb. 24th) and Jamaica (Feb. 26th). The Canadians are ranked third behind the U.S. and Mexico.
Two years ago, Canada finished fourth.
The tournament is an opportunity for all the players to showcase their talents, with hopes of playing at the senior level.
"Wearing the jersey is a honour and blessing as always but what's changed from the U17 cycle is now that this jersey represents the next level in my soccer career and it reminds me that I'm one step closer to achieving my dream of making the senior team," Novak said.
"I always get butterflies when I put the jersey on, because I'm playing for my country and that holds a lot of weight in the greatest way possible. It's super exciting to be wearing it again, reminding me of all of the hard work I've put in these past years and the sacrifices others have made for me to be able to play at this level."
Novak attended St. Joseph's High School, before transferring to Bill Crothers Secondary School in Markham, for Grades 11 and 12. While at St. Joe's, Novak helped the Lady Ram's senior cross country team advance to OFSAA in 2017.
This fall, Novak will be a freshman at UCLA playing soccer for the Bruins.
Novak scores in debut game
In Canada's tournament opening 2-0 win over El Salvador, Novak scored her first U20 goal.
"A great feeling of accomplishment," said Novak. "That was a goal I set for myself going into the tournament and living that through gave me a lot of confidence and assurance in my abilities.
Novak's first attempt to score hit the post earlier in the game before hitting nothing but mesh.
"It was a big finally moment because I hit the post in the first half, so I knew I had to redeem myself," said Novak. "During my goal celebration I was so happy and put up some fours up in the air for the girls back at my university, because that goal was for them and all they did to prepare me amazingly for this qualifier."
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