For Missouri’s Elyse Nikonchuk, being a student-athlete also means being a national soccer player.
Nikonchuk, a freshman midfielder for the Tigers from New Lennox, Ill., was selected to the Under-19 U.S. National Team. She left Saturday to train with the team for a week at Home Depot Center, U.S. Soccer’s national training center in Carson, Calif.
There will be an international tournament in February, a training camp in March and a U.S. tournament at the end of April to prepare for the Under-19 Women’s World Championships in November.
Although this is the first time a Missouri player has been selected to train with a national team, it is the second time Nikonchuk has been chosen. She was selected last year but did not play because of high school finals.
Nikonchuk said that she is thrilled to have this opportunity.
“I’m excited to go out there and play,” Nikonchuk said. “It’s not only about playing well, but getting to know people so that my confidence level’s a little higher.”
Nikonchuk had a strong season for Missouri, scoring five times on 11 shots on goal. She also played well defensively, recording a team save against Texas A&M.
Nikonchuk said that playing in college has been good preparation for this training camp.
“It’ll probably be at about the same level,” Nikonchuk said. “I’ll have seen some of these girls from playing against them.”
Nikonchuk is hoping that familiar faces will help ease some of her fears. Her mother and sister will come with her to California to cheer her on and make sure she keeps her priorities straight.
“I’m excited for the shopping,” Nikonchuk said. “That’s going to be great.”
— Sarah Korsch