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Back In Camp: Women's Soccer

Aug 2, 2022

After playing back-to-back seasons in spring 2021 and fall 2021, the women's soccer team returned finally had a normal offseason this year. 
"Honestly, I can't even distinguish the two seasons," Cal senior goalkeeper Angelina Anderson said. "Those two seasons blended into one. It was wild having the quick turnaround that no team has had to go through previously. This was my first spring season, that I've ever had here. Due to COVID, we went home a few weeks into my freshman spring season because of the pandemic."
After being sent home in spring 2020 and not getting to train with the team for nearly a
year, the Bears then played consecutive competitive seasons, missing out on valuable development time. This spring was different; the Bears had a full spring of practices and a number of players took advantage of the time by playing for their respective national teams.
"The international game is played with a high level of soccer intelligence, athleticism and technical speed, which can only help a player grow," Cal head coach Neil McGuire said. "We always see growth in how a player views the game, and their effectiveness within it. There is also a maturity that comes along with representing your n
ational team which often inspires players to want to achieve more. We have seen that in the players who have had recent international experience."

Sydney Collins playing for U.S. U-23 Team in hometown of Portland

Fifth-year Sydney Collins represented the United States at the U-23 level, while sophomore Ayo Oke and freshman Teagan Wy donned the Red, White and Blue for the U-20 team. Alexis Wright and Noelle Bond-Flasza were called up to play for the Jamaican U-20 team at the CONCACAF Championship.
Collins tested herself against professionals as she joined the United States U-23 team as they competed against NWSL sides in a preseason tournament in her hometown of Portland. Collins hadn't played for the U.S. at any level since she was 16 years old. However, her improvements at Cal were documented by the coaching staff and sent in to the national team coaches, which led to an invitation to camp this spring.
"I felt like I had played at such a level at Cal that had prepared me," Collins said. "So, I went into camp feeling a lot more confident then when I was there previously. There's definitely an adjustment period. The game was a lot faster, I had to make much quicker decisions. I think everything is elevated; technical skills, athleticism, speed of play and the tactical game. It was really nice to push myself."
During the camp, she impressed enough to start at right back in all three matches. She competed against some of the best players in the world, marking the world's all-time leading international scorer Christine Sinclair in one game against the Portland Thorns. 

Alexis Wright playing for Jamaican U-20 Team

"I think the whole experience has really benefited me, it has allowed me to be around players that are better than me in a lot of areas," Collins said. "This summer I've really been able to focus on some areas I need to improve on that I found out through that experience. I was also able to be around some of the best college players right now and take advice from them and talk about how they lead their teams and how we could implement that at Cal too."

For the rest of the international Bears, the U-20 World Cup has been the focus. Wright tried out and made the Jamaican team, playing in two matches at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Bond-Flasza wasn't able to attend the tryout camp, but received a late call-up to the team and joined the Jamaican team in the Dominican Republic for the tournament. While Jamaica didn't advance, the duo learned some valuable lessons.

Noelle Bond-Flasza playing for the Bears in 2021

"It was a dirtier game, a feistier game than club or college," Wright said. "It was a big change; I was a little shocked, at first, but playing for Jamaica has made me more tenacious and aggressive to get the ball than before. I wasn't much of a pressing, tenacious, tackling player, but since coming back I feel like I am playing harder and feistier, pressing to get the ball back."

On the other side of the bracket in the same tournament, Oke was a standout for Team USA. She played in six matches as the USA marched to the title while scoring 49 goals without conceding a goal.
"I would say it's comparable to college," Oke said. "Canada and Mexico and even Puerto Rico had some players that played in the U.S. for D1 schools. After that experience, I feel prepared, I feel ready for the season. Playing a lot of these games makes me more excited to come back and do what we have to do this season."
Oke also played for the U.S. at the Sud Ladies Cup as the Americans won another title, defeating France and Mexico and earning a draw with the Netherlands.


Ayo Oke competing at Sud Ladies Cup for U.S. U-20 Team

The U.S. hosted multiple camps last year, so it was a surprise that Wy and Oke were never in the same camp together. Wy was called up multiple times, including for two friendlies vs. Costa Rica in May as she kept a clean sheet in her appearance vs. Las Ticas.
"Internationally, the competition is way different compared to club," Wy said. "Everyone's maturity and mentality when they're playing on and off the field is different compared to the regular club season. It's a level up. Every time I am at camp, I always learn something new. The coaching staff is always supportive, they let me know what I need to work on to improve my career in soccer. So that helps a lot, it also prepared me for college because the different level and styles of play."

Wy, an incoming freshman, has yet to play a game for the Bears. So, the first time she will play with Oke will be at the U-20 World Cup, as the two were named to Team USA for the upcoming tournament. The tournament will be from August 10-28, meaning the duo will potentially miss the first three games of the Bears' season while on international duty.
However, the experience of playing internationally provides such an opportunity for growth, not only for the individuals who gained that experience, but their teammates who will benefit from their newfound expertise.

Teagan Wy competing for the U.S. U-20 Team

"When players aspire for more, whether it be to play on their n
ational team, or play professionally, there becomes a collective drive to get better," McGuire said. "Athletes will train with greater intention. Our program has a lot of highly-driven players who want to be their best and help our team achieve great things. Those who have national team experience help move that process along and the group as a whole, benefits from it."
After two difficult seasons without much time for development, these five players gained priceless experience playing different styles, learning from new teammates and coaches and working to improve their craft. Now, they're ready to bring that experience back to Berkeley. 

"Every little detail needs to be on point, every drill needs to be taken seriously at that level," Collins said. "I'm bringing that mentality back to Cal, along with the other players who were also called into their national teams. That will only help elevate our team."