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Memphis soccer talent mostly Canadian

Lisa Pechersky

The University of Memphis women’s soccer team is 14-3-1 on the year, thanks in large part to players who were recruited from Canada.

Fourteen of the team’s 26 players come from the United States’ northern neighbor, including eight players who have started at least 10 of the 18 games played.

Head coach Brooks Monaghan has been going to Canada for recruiting purposes since he took over the program in 2000. He goes to showcase tournaments and has connections with different groups in Canada to find potential players.

“A lot of these kids have been a part of the youth national teams, and over time you just develop relationships,†Monaghan said. “And we’ve developed relationships with the national team staff and a lot of different club coaches up there.â€

From the players’ point of view, they use showcases and tournaments as a way to be recognized by colleges in the United States.

“I was part of the provincial program, and we had scouting weekends and national tournaments,†midfielder Miranda Smith said.

“Coach Brooks saw me play, then we started talking, and I visited (Memphis). That’s how I ended up here.â€

Canada has college soccer programs, but because of the emphasis the United States puts on sports, Canadian players see it as an opportunity to get better or even recognized in order to keep playing after college.

“There are more opportunities here than there are in Canada,†freshman forward Serena Dolan said. “You get noticed here.â€

“The players are much more talented here than they are back home because all the good players do come down to the universities in the States,†Jessica Lisi, the team leader in assists, said.

One thing that has helped Monaghan continue to find success while recruiting in Canada is already having Canadian players on the roster. It helps to get players to come to Memphis and also helps players cope with being so far from home.

“It helps recruiting,†the team’s leading goal scorer Valerie Sanderson said. “If you see that a lot of Canadians are on the team at Memphis, then you are more likely to try it.†“Everyone here is really good about making us feel at home,†Dolan said.

Besides playing against more talent in the United States and being away from friends and family, the players have other challenges to overcome.

“For most of us, we get to go home twice a year, summer and at Christmas,†Sanderson said. “We go home for like a month, then come back,†Smith said.

Leaving Canada to come play in Memphis, they have to get used to the weather and the culture of Memphis, where warm weather and barbeque is the norm.

“The food is different here,†Smith said. “The food is healthier and the portion sizes are smaller back home.â€

“It’s a lot hotter here, and it takes a while to adjust,†Dolan said. “I think it depends on the person. Some people like to play in hot weather, but for others it takes a while to get adjusted.â€

Now, with the American Athletic Conference tournament starting Friday, the Tigers will lean on the Canadian-heavy roster to earn their first conference championship since they won it five straight times from 2007 to 2011.

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