Five Lady Falcons represent at the national soccer stage

For Gianna Owens (11), playing professional soccer has “never really been like a ‘dream.’” 

“You know those little papers you get on the first day of school, that [are] like, ‘Oh, write down your dream’ — I would never put [professional] soccer player,” Owens said. “I already knew that was what I was going to do.”

On Oct. 10, Owens received a letter inviting her to play with the Mexico Women’s U-20 national football team in Mexico City from Oct. 22 to 31.

Multiple students at TPHS have received similar letters to this — Ella Emri (12) briefly played for Canada before moving to the U.S. Women’s U-20 national team. Similarly, Ines Derrien (12), Edra Bello (11) and Tanna Schornstein (12) also joined the U.S. roster. With eligibility based on the player’s parents or grandparent’s national descent, players have the opportunity to represent multiple countries at different times, according to FIFA regulations. 

“Even when I was younger, my goal was to go pro,” Bello, who is committed to play Division I soccer at the University of Southern California, said. “I feel like I’ve always loved [soccer] and had a passion for it. [More than that,] it’s a serious thing to me and it’s what makes me happy.”

Whether they consider a call-up to be a goal, all five of the players expressed their excitement for the opportunity. 

“At the end, that’s the goal: to be on  [the national] team and then stay on that team, to succeed there and get accolades for that,” Emri, who is committed to play Division I soccer at Stanford University, said.

Youth programs — ranging from training camps to tournaments — for national teams run from ages 14 to 23. Athletes compete in showcases in hopes of recognition from national team scouts; at every game, players must perform at their highest level.

“I feel like consistency within your sport [is most important],” Owens, who is committed to play Division I soccer at the University of California, Berkeley, said. 

In the ten-day women’s youth national team camp that brought Bello to Carson, California, daily schedules were packed with two or three team meetings every day on top of rigorous training and practice. According to Emri, “nothing is promised.”

“Just because you’re the captain [of your team] doesn’t mean you’re making the next camp,” Emri said. “It’s a high-stress environment, it’s demanding, but it’s … what we love about the sport.”

Still, reaching the height of the experience does not come without immense sacrifice and challenges.

“My sport is something I hold to a whole other standard,” Owens said. “So I won’t be missing practice to complete an assignment, or I won’t be taking a break from soccer to focus on school. [Sports are] labeled like extracurriculars, but for those who play at a higher level, it’s like a lifestyle.”

TPHS women’s head coach, Martyn Hansford recognizes the special qualities that such athletes possess.

“The common denominator with these players is the ability to deal with adversity and keep on pushing,” Hansford said.

While the goal is to keep their passion for their sport alive on their current pitch, the five athletes all have teams they dream of playing for. “I think Chelsea or Manchester City, either one,” Emri said.

“Spain 100%,” Schornstein said.

“Barcelona,” Bello and Derrien said in unison.

In the meantime, soccer fans can watch Shornstein — who is committed to play division one soccer at Northwestern University — and Owens in action representing the Lady Falcons on Ed Burke field, Schornstein as one of the varsity team captains. For all five, they look ahead to successful college careers and continuing their journeys by registering for the NWSL draft or playing professionally overseas. 

Photo by Hope Dennis/Falconer

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