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Soccer standouts take roundabout route

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Three members of Winnipeg Phoenix Soccer Club are breaking new ground this week — on the other side of the Atlantic.

Megan Diamond, Brooke Richtik and Jasmine Lotey are set to become the first Canadian participants in the Firstpoint USA Soccer Showcase, an annual event held in London to help talented soccer players (usually from Europe) get noticed by American universities.

The trio of players from the northeast Winnipeg club will be playing three games each in front of about 150 coaches from U.S. schools who will be looking for the next batch NCAA stars.

"As long as I can remember, it’s been my goal (to play college soccer in the U.S.)," said Richtik, a 16-year-old who joined Phoenix’s under-18 team this year after many years in the Portage Trail system. "I was four when I started playing soccer."

Richtik, who lives in St. James, found out about the event in the summer from Phoenix’s new general manager, Kenny Brannigan, a Scotsman who worked with Firstpoint in the past.

"I’m looking forward to seeing the atmosphere in Europe, where everything is about soccer," Richtik said. "It’s going to be so big. I can’t even wrap my mind around it."

One of the attributes that could make Richtik stand out to scouts is her versatility. When asked what position she plays, her response is "a little bit of everything."

"I’m a very determined player with a strong work ethic," she said. "If the ball is going out of bounds, I hustle to it. I just try to go hard till the whistle."

Diamond plays with Phoenix’s premier senior women’s team as well as Portage Trail’s under-18 squad. She’s a striker who specializes in blasting the ball past goalkeepers with her powerful shot.

"I found out about the trip a month or two ago, and was just really excited," said the Grade 11 student from Westwood. "Kenny talked really highly about the program. To have an experience to go to London to play against girls from there is really exciting."

Diamond is almost looking forward to sightseeing as much as she is getting on the pitch. The girls will get a chance to tour London, and plan to attend an English Premier League match between Newcastle and Fulham.

The youngest member of the group is Lotey, who’s only 13 but plays with 15-year-olds. She’s hoping to attract the attention of American prep schools, which offer intense training prior to college.

"These girls are all more than capable of handling themselves," Brannigan said. "When I came to the club (nine months ago) I saw that lots of the players had potential. I put this program on the table, and the girls were ecstatic. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t arrive every day."

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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