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T&T girls U-17 A's Cherina Steele, right, sidesteps a strong challenge from SVG girls U-17s' Carmel Myers during the Jewels of the Caribbean U-17 Girls final match at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar on Wednesday, December 20th 2023. T&T ‘A’ won 2-0. PHOTO BY: Daniel Prentice
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Jinelle James, director of the women's football in the T&T Football Association (TTFA) and FIFA assistant development officer, says she is happy with the learning exposure provided to the T&T Under-17 'A' and 'B' girls' teams in the just concluded Jewels of the Caribbean Under-17 Women’s Tournament at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar, on Wednesday.

The four-team tournament, which also featured Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), saw the Ayana Russell-coached T&T 'A' team led by Orielle Martin and J'Eleisha Alexander, the 2022 Secondary School Girls Football League "Player of the Year" emerge as champion.

On Wednesday in the final, Bishop Anstey East striker Martin scored a goal in each half to take her tournament-best tally to eight in leading T&T 'A' to a 2-0 win over SVG

Martin was eventually named the "Best Midfielder", picked up the "Most Goals" prize and was the Tournament "Most Valuable Player" winner while teammate Jasmaine Mc Nish was voted as the "Best Defender" in helping their team top the round-robin table with three wins ahead of their final's triumph.

In their other matches, the T&T 'A' blanked SVG (4-0), 'T&T 'B' (6-0) and Grenada (4-1).

However, the T&T 'B' team coached by Afiyah Matthias ended in the cellar spot after losing 3-0 to Grenada in their third-placed playoff also on Wednesday after drawing goalless with the same opponent on Monday.

The local 'B' team also tasted defeat against SVG 1-0.

Speaking on completion of the competition, James said, "I thought the Jewels of the Caribbean U-17 Girls Tournament was a great opportunity to give the girls a chance to play without any of the pressures of a qualification tournament, and being able to play teams that are at their level competitively, and the girls are learning how to win international matches."

She added: "In the end, some of our U-17 players showed themselves like Mc Nish, Martin, Cherina Steele and Alexander who has had a successful campaign for the past year in the Secondary School Girls Football League and was called up to the senior women's team.

"There were others like Mariah Williams, Madison Campbell, and Ty'Kaiya Dennis, so it was basically the whole team really showing themselves and introducing themselves at this level to international football," boasted James.

Reflecting on the matches, James said, "We had two teams, the younger core of players on the T&T President's XI or 'B' team. They are basically U-14 players now and next year they will be competing in the Concacaf U-15 Tournament so it was just a good opportunity to give exposure to the young girls.

"They were much younger than their competitors of course but again it's always good to put them in to see where they are at in their development so the coaches could see where they are at and know the areas of concerns and what's needed for them to improve and to prepare programs to help with that for the U-15 Concacaf competition next year in August.

"All in all I thought it was a good showing for the girls and hopefully we can get more opportunities for them to play in a competitive environment without the pressures of it being a qualification tournament."

With Concacaf qualifiers in the distant future, James said the T&T girls need the opportunity to play more before those competitions.

"What I personally realised is that these girls don't play any football outside of coming to training," James noted.

"And in my time and the players that came after me even though we trained, we always used to go and play in what we called 'sweat' and tournaments, and these crop of girls don't play those types of football.

"So we have to find a way to get them to play more which will help them to develop their game savvy and game awareness and they will get to see the things that they are being shown in training."

The women's football administrator made it clear that personal development on the part of the players must also play a key role in their development.

She said, "Training is only one and half hours, and it's only so much the coaches can get across to the players, and they themselves have to do some playing recreationally as having that chance to 'sweat' or play recreational football was an advantage for us back then in helping to learn how to check in pockets, and how and when to make runs and all these little 'nitty gritties' of the game.

"So, we know they have a lot to learn still and this particular tournament kind of helps to groom them and prepare them. But, at the same time, it did not put them under pressure because there was no qualification involved for any competition.

"It also taught them to fight and to learn to win at an international level, and what it takes to do so and how to compete. So, we saw a lot of positives that we could take from this experience that the coaches will use to help prepare the team for their next encounter at the U-20 level maybe in 2025 or 2026."

Looking at the immediate future for the more senior players in the group James said they will continue to train and learn from these kinds of exposure.

Jewels of the Caribbean Tournament results

Wednesday

Final:

T&T 'A' 2 (Orielle Martin 24th pen, 74th) vs SVG 0

Third placed:

Grenada 3 (Abigail Williams 4th, 54th, 56th) vs vs T&T 'B'


Monday:

Grenada 0 vs T&T ‘B’ 0

T&T ‘A’ 4 (Orielle Martin 9th pen, 66th, Madison Campbell 15th pen, Jasmine Mc Nish 40+1) vs SVG 0


Sunday:

T&T ‘A’ (Orielle Martin 66th, 80+2, Kimora Mitchell 2nd, J'Eleisha Alexander 38th, Cherine Steele 43rd, Ty'Kaiya Dennis 69th) vs T&T 'B' 0

SVG 2 (Vinesha Wilson 33rd, Meiya Wilson 90+5) vs Grenada 1 (Hailey Mc Intyre 32nd)


Saturday:

T&T U-17s ‘A’4 (J'Eleisha Alexander, Orielle Martin) vs Grenada 1 (Hailey Mc Intyre)

SVG 1 (Meiya Wilson 28th) vs T&T 'B' 0


Final round-robin standing

Pl Teams P W D L F A Pts

1 T&T ‘A’ 3 3 0 0 14 1 9

2 SVG 3 2 0 1 3 5 6

3 Grenada 3 0 1 2 2 6 1

4 T&T ‘B’ 3 0 1 2 0 7 1


Individual awards:

Best Goalkeeper: G-Riesa Joseph (SVG)

Best Defender: Jasmine Mc Nish (T&T 'A')

Best Midfielder: Orielle Martin (T&T 'A')

Most Goals: Orielle Martin (T&T 'A') - 8 goals

Most Valuable Player: Orielle Martin (T&T 'A')


SOURCE: T&T Guardian