Guyana’s senior National Women’s football team – the Lady Jags – will begin their quest to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil tomorrow (Friday August 21), when they come up against St Kitts and Nevis at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristóbal Dominican Republic.
Guyana is drawn in Group Four in the Caribbean Zone of the 2016 Women’s Olympic Qualifiers, playing against St Kitts and Nevis and Cuba.
Having seen success against both countries in 2010, Guyana will now look to replicate their performance today against St Kitts and Cuba on August 23.
Group One will be hosted by Puerto Rico and fields Aruba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Grenada. Group Two features St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad & Tobago, to be staged in Trinidad & Tobago.
The Group Three games will be played in Suriname and the teams in this group are Dominica Republic, Dominica and Jamaica.
While the tournament has an age limit of Under-23 for men born on or after January 1, 1993, there is no age ceiling for the Women’s Qualifiers.
Three teams will advance from the female category into the CONCACAF Women’s Summer Olympic Tournament for 2016.
The Mark Rodrigues coached squad arrived on the Spanish speaking Island on Wednesday focusing their attention on getting out of Group Four and advance further in the qualifier to become the first team from Guyana to play at the Olympic Games.
Goalkeeper Ruth George is the lone locally based player selected with Rodrigues turning to players from his historic 2010 Gold Cup squad and from his 2012 U-20 group who are from the US, Canada and the UK.
Ashley Rodrigues will wear the captain’s band and will have the De Souza sisters Kayla and Briana, along with Ashlee Savona, Calaigh Copeland, Otesha Charles, Mariam El-Masri, Olivia Gonsalves, Alison Heydorn, Kailey Leila, Chantal Lynch, Kelly Pelz-Butler, Brittany Persaud, Leah-Marie Ramalho, Justine Rodrigues, Martyne Alphonso, Derienne Busby and Chante Sandiford.
As compared to the first time the girls were group, Coach Rodrigues said he was excited to have a wide pool of players to select from, with a few higher level identified players still not in attendance that may be available for later rounds pending Guyana’s advancement.
According to Rodrigues, “this is a much more experienced squad than 2010, but we must remember that other countries have also been developing their female players, while also reaching out to their Diasporas for higher level players, so we do not know what to expect from our competition until game day”
The women’s Head Coach is of the opinion that along with his staff, their focus is what Guyana will put on the field with the intention and hope of dictating the game.
The Head Coach says that he welcomes the high expectation of the team, noting “the team has embraced the fact that everyone’s expectations are based on our achievements in 2010 and rightfully so. It was a great, historical achievement for Guyana Football”
He added however “while it’s great to reflect and rejoice on the past and the legacies created and set back then, we must now first and foremost remain focused on what we have to do on August 21 and 23, and that is to win our group to advance.
The Squad: Ashley Rodrigues (Captain) Kayla De Souza, Briana De Souza, Ashlee Savona, Calaigh Copeland, Otesha Charles, Mariam El-Masri, Olivia Gonsalves, Alison Heydorn, Kailey Leila, Chantal Lynch, Kelly Pelz-Butler, Brittany Persaud, Leah-Marie Ramalho, Justine Rodrigues, Martyne Alphonso, Derienne Busby, Ruth George and Chante Sandiford.