The Turks and Caicos Islands Girls are bubbling with confidence ahead of their Caribbean Football Union Under 14 Girls Challenge Series Tier 2 final on Sunday starting at 11:30 am against tournament favourites Aruba.
It is already a history-making affair for the Under 14 Girls, as no football team from the Turks and Caicos Islands at any level, male or female, has ever reached a regional or international tournament final.
The TCI were edged by Aruba in their group fixture on Friday, but Head Coach Olivia Gravely, as well as President for the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) Sonia Fulford-Missick, believe that it would be a fight to the wire, but are convinced that when the dust is settled, the local girls would rule the roost.
“After having the team talk tonight, I can genuinely say the girls are mentally, mindset-wise, ready,” Gravely told Newsline TCI on Saturday night. “They are going in like warriors, and I predict that we will come out on top tomorrow.
“Just by the energy and the way the girls are feeling, I can tell that they are not going to leave that pitch unless they are going to give it their all.”
Gravely said she could not be happier with the current crop of players, who she said, have shown tenacity and grit.
“If there was ever a moment we could use the phrase, ‘hard work pays off’, it's now. I would never forget two, three years ago, when we entered this competition, when we were the youngest team within the competition, we always told the girls, ‘Yes, we know you are young, but if you work hard for the next couple of years, you would be on top’, and so said, so done. All the work the girls have put in over the years, its starting to genuinely pay off,” Gravely said.
Gravely revealed that the vast improvements of the Under 14 Girls has created a team pride, which has motivated them beyond belief.
“The girls have a certain belief in themselves now that we are proud to see,” she said.
For her part, Fulford-Missick said the level of development displayed by the girls is something that has not gone unnoticed, hence their confidence going into tomorrow’s final.
“When the tournament had started out and I was watching all of the teams perform, you could see that the boys’ and girls’ Aruban teams were the favourite teams,” Fulford-Missick said.
“They are really good teams. If we had played them earlier, I would probably say, we wouldn’t have won that match. Going into yesterday’s (Friday) match, I thought it would have been a very tough match. But I know we wouldn’t be a blowout like the other teams, but I thought it would have been a very tough one and could have gone either way.
"After seeing them play yesterday, I think we are going to come out with a victory. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, because you could tell that the Aruba team has been playing together for a very long time, and they are more advanced tactically than our girls.
“But what our girls have, and you have seen it throughout the tournament is fight. So, I am not counting our girls out… it's coming down to the wire, that’s how I see tomorrow’s game,” Fulford-Missick reasoned.
She said the TCI team is a young one, comprising a lot of 11 and 12-year-olds.
“What I like most about the tournament is that they were put in a group where they could actually compete. They (Aruba) blasted the other teams (in the zone). We had a pretty tough game with them, and even though we lost by one, it was really a victory for us, because every game these girls played they just got better and better,” the TCIFA President analyzed.
“It (girls’ performance) really makes us feel great as an association because youth football development is among our main focus. We are trying to rejuvenate our women’s football and we are putting a lot of support behind,” she said.
In the meantime, Fulford-Missick said while the Boys are not enjoying similar success as the girls at the tournament, their marked improvements should not be brushed aside.
“We can’t count our boys out, because even though they have not won any of their games, they were also in a competitive group, and they performed well. They never lost by more than two goals.
“They were super competitive throughout. They were unlucky that they didn’t score, but they had some fantastic games. Our youth development programme is going places, and I am super proud as the president, to be here and witness it,” Fulford-Missick said.
She also showered praises on the female coaching staff, headed by director Yunelsis Baez, Gravely and included Dane Ritchie and Gillian Vernice.