Some of the best female soccer players on the planet are competing at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including a couple of athletes from Durham Region.
They’re heading to Paris as Team Canada advances to the knockout round.
Those who played a part in their development on and off the pitch knew they were destined for greatness.
Paul Deabreu has spent the last decade coaching soccer with the Pickering Soccer Club, and has seen some talented players come and go. Nichelle Prince and Kailen Sheridan, though, are the cream of the crop, he says.
“She had that poise about her,” said Deabreu. “You know that Nichelle was always on the field, her work ethic was tremendous.
“Kailen was one of those goalkeepers that never stops training. I remember her diving for balls in warmup; I mean, she was warming up for five minutes and after a warmup she was all bruised up.”
Both players are now competing for World Cup gold with Canada’s national team, and seeing them on the world stage is like a trip down memory lane for Deabreu.
“We were undefeated for the first two years. Nichelle must have had between those two years maybe 30 goals,” said Deabreu. “We must have had 10 to 15 shutouts.”
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Nichelle Prince, born and raised in Ajax, graduated six years ago from Pickering High School, where she wasn’t just a stand out athlete but an honour roll student.
“You see that smile on her face and that really is the definition of Nichelle Prince,” said Kelly Sadowski, Nichelle’s former teacher.
Sadowski was one of Nichelle’s high-performance program teachers. She says that drive Nichelle has on the pitch is something she brought with her to the classroom.
“She never was happy with getting by in a class or getting that 80, she was always reaching for the 90s and she just worked really, really hard,” said Sadowski.
But soccer was her first love and she helped raise a championship banner her in grade 12 year.
Her junior 100-metre school track record still stands. In the winter, she used to run up and down the hallway. Chris Davis was blown away by what she could do on the track.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, so she had great work ethic, she had the talent and she had a vision to what she wanted to accomplish,” said Davis, Nichelle’s former assistant track coach.
While having the region and entire country pulling for them, Prince and Sheridan are looking to accomplish another goal on Monday as they face Sweden in the round of 16.