SSM Senior Invited to Russian U19 National Women’s Soccer Team Training Camp

March 25, 2021

Liza Gavalova ’21, a member of the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Girls Soccer Center of Excellence program’s U19 team, has recently been selected by the Russian Football Union to attend a training camp for the Russian U19 National Team this spring.

The training camp, held by the Women’s U19 National Football Team of Russia and the Football Union of Russia, will take place in Turkey from April 5-13th and will determine the team’s final selections before the qualifying round of the 2022 United European Football Associations (UEFA) Women’s U19 Championship. This round of games will be played in September (Russia will play against Germany, Belgium, and Slovenia), and the winners of each group will qualify for the European Championships in the Czech Republic.

“This level equals the level of play of the US National Teams,” said SSM Director of Girls Soccer Tim Aga. “Basically, it is the best of Europe playing each other. It is exciting that Liza is selected to play for one of the traditional soccer powers of Europe!”

Originally born in Russia, Liza has lived in Canada for the last several years. “I’m thrilled,” she said. “It’s a huge opportunity, to see your hard work paying off, a step towards your dream. I would’ve expected to play for Canada, but it’s really cool to play for your home country.”

“Liza is a player seeking to play at the highest level,” said SSM Girls U19 Head Coach Vickey Vargas. “She’s technical, strong, and battles on the field. Unselfish with the ball, she reads the game well and distributes. She’s a joy to coach!”

The SSM Girls Soccer COE helps foster this drive for development and success by providing daily access to both indoor and outdoor turf fields, a brand new, fully-equipped weight room, and strength and conditioning programs with the support of dedicated athletic training staff and facilities. “I’m super grateful for having the opportunity to be here, because everything in Winnipeg has been locked down for months,” said Liza. “Anything you want here you have access to. It helped me stay in shape to be ready for this opportunity.”

In addition to taking advantage of the facilities on campus, Liza has used other aspects of the soccer program to improve her game. “We have the ability to film every game,” said Coach Vargas, “and Liza uses this to her benefit in order to understand where and how to keep honing her skills. She’s a true student of the game!”

Obviously, COVID-19 has created obstacles for athletes around the world as they continue to pursue their sports. The SSM Girls Soccer COE has been happy to provide Liza and her teammates with consistent training, workouts, and games throughout the pandemic. “A huge thanks to the coaches for getting me through the year,” said Liza. “It’s important to me to thank everyone who has helped me on this journey: family, friends, teammates.”

Coach Vargas concluded, “We have arranged a friendly match this weekend, and the team will be traveling to Dallas for competitions prior to Liza’s departure for camp. Liza will be fit physically and technically to showcase all her hard work in Russia!”

SSM has had a few other women play on their National Teams, such as Julia Roddar ’11 winning bronze in the last World Cup with Sweden, illustrating what a rare and amazing achievement it is when athletes are invited. “It basically is an elite group of 25-30 players in an age group,” said Aga. “Looking at the number of players in Russia, it is a great accomplishment by Liza!”

Besides her skill on the soccer field, Liza has used her time at SSM to explore the many other opportunities available to her. In addition to combining an intense level of play with a full college-prep academic schedule, Liza also participated in the SSM’s first ever Zoom theater performance this winter, and is considering joining the Arch Dance Company. She performed splendidly, embodying the soccer program’s desire to grow the whole student-athlete.

To learn more about the Girls Soccer COE success this year, read about their recent tournament win in Phoenix, Arizona, or revisit National Letter of Intent Signing Day to see where many of our soccer seniors will be playing next fall.