MONTPELLIER, France — Usually the most pressing concern for 18-year-olds at this time of year is graduation attire.
Yet, for Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso and Jordyn Huitema, their focus is on soccer as members of the Canadian women’s national team at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
It is an impressive achievement for the three teenagers to be named to Canada’s World Cup roster considering four years ago, they were all watching the tournament as young spectators.
“I think being here is probably sinking in the most today because it’s World Cup kickoff day and it’s really starting to hit that I’m at a senior World Cup, it’s not a junior World Cup,” Riviere said Monday after taking her official World Cup portrait at the team hotel. “There are a lot of people here that I used to watch on TV, not only like Sincy (Christine Sinclair) and Sophie (Schmidt) from this team, but even players from France and Germany when I was 10 years old watching them on big stages like this.
“To be a part of it, especially at a young age, I think it’s really cool. I think it’s all just soaking in today.”
A product of Pickering, Ont., Riviere was identified nationally as a 14-year-old and represented Canada at the Under-15 level. She quickly moved up the ranks with the Under-17 and Under-20 programs before making her senior national team debut in November 2017 as a 16-year-old.
A member of Vancouver Whitecaps Girls Elite Super REX program, Riviere has five senior international appearances for Canada and is still looking for her first goal. Making the 23-player Women’s World Cup roster was a dream come true the young forward, who is still in high school and committed to the University of Michigan this fall.
“I feel like everything I’ve done has brought me to this moment,” Riviere said. “So all the training, waking up at 5 a.m., to do a lift and then going to school and then going to training afterwards, I think all of that has moulded into one thing.”
Whether Riviere sees the field in France is inconsequential. The experience she gains by being a member of the squad considered to be the most talented ever put on a soccer field by Canada, will prove invaluable down the road.
The same goes for Grosso and Huitema, who along with Riviere earned their spot on the team and are not just along for the ride.
“I’ve been to the U-17 World Cup, but you never really know when you’ll get called to the senior team,” Grosso said. “I got called up a year and a bit ago and ever since then it’s been a great honour to be here.”
A Vancouver product, Grosso is also part of the Whitecaps program. She made her senior team debut for Canada in November 2017 as well and has 16 international appearances.
“The first time I got called up, it was just such an honour just knowing I’ve looked up to every single one of those players,” Grosso said. “I had posters of them up on my wall and when I first got to meet them, I couldn’t believe it was real and it was amazing. But they are all so nice and kind, that it feels like family now to me.”
Four years ago, Grosso was in the stands at B.C. Place in Vancouver watching Canada play at the World Cup. Canada was eliminated in the quarter-final by England in 2015.
“I remember my dad saying that in four years I would be at the next World Cup,” Grosso said. “I remember him saying that so vividly and it’s just crazy that now I get a chance to be a part of the team at the World Cup.”
A midfielder, Grosso just completed her first year of college with the Texas Longhorns. She was a Canada Games all-star in 2017 and was named the 2018 BC Soccer youth female player of the year.
Getting named to Canada’s roster for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, however, is Grosso’s biggest achievement to date.
“It was so exciting when I found out, it was probably the best feeling that I’ve ever had,” she said. “Just knowing that in 2015 I was thinking this World Cup is coming and just to be here now, it’s crazy and now being in France is so surreal to me.”
For Huitema, meanwhile, the world continues to spin at an incredible rate. The product of Chilliwack, B.C., will be taking part in her first World Cup a few weeks after announcing she was forgoing college to play professionally for Paris Saint-Germain starting this upcoming season.
Huitema is considered the heir apparent to Sinclair, and the teenage striker has six goals in 21 international appearances for her country.
“It’s definitely been a lot; I don’t think I’ve been in a place for more than a month,” Huitema said. “I’ve been travelling around so much, whether that’s going back home, going to camp, going to Paris, I’ve just been flying all the way around the world right now, which is amazing I’m so blessed for that.
“It’s been a little bit ramped up for that and there is never a dull moment I can say. But, obviously, I love every minute of it and I’m excited when I get a chance to relax and settle down in a place, which will be Paris. I love it and the gateway that Canada has opened up for me has been incredible. I wouldn’t be where I’m at in my career if they’ve hadn’t of called me up at such a young age in my career.”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
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