Sept. 2, 2016
Boise State women’s soccer junior midfielder Sarah Taylor is one step closer to making Canada’s roster for the U-20 World Cup in November. Following the Broncos’ matches this weekend Taylor, a native of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, will head to Vancouver, B.C., for a 12-day camp where selections are expected to be made for the tournament.
Taylor made her national team debut in May, earning the call for an 11-day camp in Mexico City, culminating in two international matches against Mexico. She was recently invited to the September camp. The 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup will take place Nov. 13 to Dec. 3, in Papua New Guinea.
Taylor sat down with BroncoSports.com for a Q&A about her what she expects from the upcoming camp and the thrill of her first Team Canada experience.
How did you find out you made the roster for the camp in May?
“I was in the training room. It was April and (Boise State head coach Jim Thomas) and I had been talking about how I could get into a camp because I was ready for it. One day I was getting stretched, I remember laying on the table. I was refreshing my emails and I had one from a name I didn’t recognize with the subject line of ‘Canada Soccer.’ I opened it up and the first line said ‘Hi players, you’ve been selected for consideration to the next Team Canada camp in May.’ I immediately walked out of the room to find my roommates. I needed to tell someone. Everyone in the training room must have wondered what my problem was. I found one of my roommates outside and made her read the message because I didn’t believe it. She probably thought I lost my mind too because I was just like, ‘read this! I don’t know what it means but read it.’ I just start crying and we’re hugging and crying and it was so happy. After that happened I calmed down and actually read the email and talked to Jim. It wasn’t 100 percent at that time so I had to wait 10 days; the longest 10 days of my life. I found out April 29 that I was for sure going and I left for the camp May 11. That’s how I found out. It was pretty emotional.”
Had it been realistic to expect you could make a national team?
“It was realistic when I was younger. In grades 8 to 11 I was always on the provincial team. We had a national training center in Nova Scotia for the top players of all ages in the province and at times all of the Maritime Provinces. I was always part of that pool of players that was identified as having potential to be a candidate to be a Team Canada player. That stopped my grade 12 year because the program was canceled when the main coach went to the national team and there was no longer a coach in our area. So that whole year, I barely played soccer. I was always training by myself, but I come from a very small town an hour and a half away from any type of competitive soccer. So it was hard to keep that Team Canada mindset for that year. It wasn’t realistic to go to a camp from the environment I was in at that point.”
“My dream has always been to play for Team Canada, but the question was always ‘how would I do in a national camp?’ I just didn’t know how I would get into a camp to show myself. So as soon as I got that email I knew it was my chance. I was finally asked to go and I knew I had an opportunity to prove myself.”
You grew up hoping for the opportunity, but how did the dream compare to the reality?
“Just knowing I was going to put on the red and white. Walking into the locker room before the game to see all the jerseys hanging up, I couldn’t help but think, ‘oh my gosh, I’m about to play for Team Canada.’ You can’t explain it. It was just such an awesome feeling. I didn’t start the first game, but I went in at half. I really liked it that way because I got to watch first-hand how they play in that environment.
I played well in the second half and felt like I had a great first game. We went into penalty shots in that game and I got to take one and I scored. Immediately after that I was in tears, obviously. Just putting on the jersey and knowing you’re representing something bigger than yourself is such an awesome feeling.”
What were your biggest takeaways from your first camp that you can use this time?
“With Team Canada it’s very technical. How you move and where you’re passing is on another level. Everything is analyzed and we watched a ton of video at the camp. So I got to learn a lot about what they want from me and it’s nice to know what is wanted from you. I can grow on that and apply it the next time. After being in the camp I definitely notice what I’m good at and what I need to bring to the table. For me it’s winning the ball back and playing out wider to help keep my team in possession.”
Have you noticed anything spilling over to your Boise State training?
“Now that I’m back with Boise State there are a few things I have made sure to put a focus on. The tempo of the game at the international level is so fast. It’s so intellectual and that’s really cool. The biggest thing for me is playing quickly and making good decisions on the ball. That’s one thing I’ve been really hard on myself about in practices. I’m always looking for the forward pass and always trying to keep the ball. Every time you lose the ball you’re giving the opponent a chance to score immediately, so that type of individual mistake can have a major impact on the team.”
How did you handle the time between the May camp and finding out if you would be part of the next one?
“I worked hard over the summer to stay fit so I could be ready if ever got the call. I just waited to get the next email and hoped that I would get asked to go back for another chance to prove myself. The biggest thing was I just trained and waited for the confirmation. Once I found out I was going, I really targeted some certain things I needed to work on-- being accurate with passing and things like that—and set my next goals. I know that in this next camp I want to prove myself again and prove that I can play at that level and on Team Canada. I’m viewing this as a tryout. Another chance for me to put everything out there, because I know I’m on the line where they may or may not ask me to come back. It is a tryout for me, so that’s how I’m approaching it.”
What advantage will you have at the next camp versus your first camp?
“I compare it to being a sophomore rather than a freshman. At the camp in May I was a freshman. Everything was new to me. I didn’t know the players, the coaches, how anything worked or really how they played other than watching it. Now I feel like I’m a sophomore. Everything won’t be so new for me. I know how the days are going to look and how I’m going to feel over the course of 12 days. I’m really excited to have a feel for everything going into it. I understand how my body will react to the training and the games, so I’m excited for that. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m excited to have a better idea of what it will be like.”
Has it been difficult not getting ahead of yourself with a lifelong dream in reach?
“It’s hard because in terms of school for this semester, I have to plan as if I will make it. I have to be ready to work ahead in my classes and put myself in position to be successful there. So in that sense I let my mind wander to what it would be like. But I just try to go one step at a time. My main focus right now is on winning with my Boise State teammates. The time will come when I turn my focus to Team Canada—probably when I get on that plane Monday. I just want to do well there and enjoy the experience. I’ll present everything I can, but whatever happens happens.”
How different was the experience of watching Team Canada in the Olympics this year having been in a national team camp and getting closer to that level yourself?
“I definitely have set a goal for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It’s cool because I think once you get an opportunity like I was afforded, you get motivated by how close you are. It makes me realize what’s possible if I work hard. The goal of the U20 program is to prepare you for the full national team. I want to be a part of that. I want to be on the full national team and play in the Olympics and the World Cup. So watching that was super cool to know that I could be in that spot someday and to know if you want it enough you can get it. It was good for me to watch it and know that was me if I want it to be. There are going to be a few girls from the Olympic Team who will be at the camp, so it will be cool to play with them. It’s just really cool playing with people who have been at that level for a long time because it’s great to learn from them.”