The Cayman Islands Women’s Under-17s continued their scoring barrage Sunday (25 August) in a 7-1 win over Antigua & Barbuda at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, earning top spot in Group B of the qualification stage and a birth in next year’s CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championships.
Friday, 23 August: Cayman 1 Martinique 1
After an 8-1 win over Dominica to open the qualification stage Wednesday (21 August), Cayman’s Women’s U17s took to the pitch Friday (23 August) in their toughest matchup of the three-game schedule versus Martinique who had defeated Antigua and Barbuda 4-2 in the tournament’s opening match.
In the ninth minute, a bad bounce over the head of the Cayman defense and a slight hesitation off the line from goalkeeper Satiah Miller – who was suffering from flu-like symptoms – was enough for Martinique captain Ludmilla Gaydu to gather from point-blank range and slot home for an early 1-0 lead.
With Martinique marking any and all offensive threats, the visitors congested the midfield and Cayman struggled to create offense. In the 71st minute, Cayman’s fortunes changed when a one-two at midfield between Alexia Bromfield and Molly Kehoe freed the Darlington School freshman with midfielder Ethana Villalobos on pace down the near side wing. With Martinique defender Laurie Cotrebil falling in retreat on the counterattack, the Elite Sports Club standout dribbled in stride and fired hard past the fingertip of Martinique keeper Juliana Grat Palain-St. Agathe for the equalizer to secure the 1-1 draw.
“I think the early goal gave Martinique the ability to play differently,” Assistant Coach Gigi Gamba said. “They defended with many players, kicking long balls, and relaxed a little bit. Whereas we had the pressure to score, and with young players, they felt they had to play rushed, as opposed to thinking about what they’re doing.”
Sunday, 25 August: Cayman 7 Antigua & Barbuda 1
With a +5 lead in goal differential and a 7:30 p.m. start versus Antigua & Barbuda, Cayman saw Martinique blank Dominica 5-0 in the early game. Needing to win by just a single goal with a clean sheet, the home side unleashed another offensive attack led by the second four-goal game of the tournament from standout Molly Kehoe. Alexia Bromfield and Shay Windsor added first-half goals, while substitute Kalie Ebanks found the back of the net in the 87th minute for a 7-1 final.
Cayman and Martinique would both finish on seven points, but the home side clinched a birth in the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championships with a goal differential of +13 to Les Matininos +7.
Assistant Head Coach Noel Kane lauded the collective efforts of his staff as well as Cayman Islands Football Association administrators, saving special praise for Manager and CIFA Technical Director Alex Gonzalez for month’s of dedication to the team’s preparation.
“It’s been a big of effort, a big collective effort,” Kane said. “A lot of people at CIFA, and behind the scenes. One man deserves all the accolades of Coach Alex Gonzalez. He shies away from the accolades but he’s the man. Our background staff all deserve praise. We started out well today, we imposed ourselves well on this team,” Kane said. “The early goal settled us down. We put them under a lot of pressure, and I am really proud of the girls.”
The U17s will now await the winners of the remaining groups that will make up the Round of 16 at the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championships 21 March to 5 April. The top three teams from that tournament will advance to the 2020 FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup in India 21 September to 4 October.
“Now the real work begins,” said Kane.