Later this month, BC Place will be host to the 2012 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament. For many players on the team, this won’t be the first time playing in front of fans in Vancouver, as the squad includes 14 former members of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Over the next two weeks, whitecapsfc.com will be profiling each of these players as we get set to support our fantastic Canadian women!
When it comes to NCAA women’s soccer, no program compares to the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels have won 20 titles and have consistently been among the top teams in the country. Not only did Robyn Gayle play at UNC, she was one of the best players on the team during her four-year career.
As a team captain in 2006, Gayle led the Tar Heels to their 18th national championship and was named defensive MVP of the College Cup. Her collegiate performance puts her in the same class as fellow UNC alumni such as Heather O’Reilly, Kristine Lilly and the legendary Mia Hamm. Head coach Anson Dorrance called her one of the fiercest tacklers he’s ever coached. She’s paved the way for Canadians to continue attending UNC, such as 2009 NCAA champion and 2011 Whitecaps player Ranee Premji of Calgary, Alberta.
During her senior year of college, Gayle made it to the roster for Canada at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. She didn’t make an appearance in the tournament, but returned to the World Cup last year and played in her first match versus Germany in front of more than 70,000 people. In between, she played for Canada at the 2008 Olympics, making an appearance against Sweden.
While winning championships is the norm at UNC, it’s been harder to come by elsewhere for Gayle. Canada have been unable to get out of the group stage of the last two World Cups and fell in the quarterfinals of the last Olympics. The Mississauga, Ontario, native first put on the Canadian colours in 2002 when Canada hosted the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. That team came up just short of glory, falling 2-1 in extra-time to the United States. In 2010 Gayle suited up for Whitecaps FC, and while that team had a great year, they too came up just short of their ultimate goal, as they were defeated in the W-League final.
Gayle is one of seven players from the 2002 U-19 team that was so agonizingly close to international glory, and one of eight from the 2010 Whitecaps W-League finalists. Perhaps now she can look back at her time at UNC and help Canada channel that winning mentality, all the way to this summer’s 2012 London Olympics.
For more details on how to purchase tickets, please visit the CanadaSoccer.com CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying tournament information page.