In what has to be the perfect cap to a university soccer career, Maple Ridge’s Kelly Cook has been selected to play for Canada at the World University Games in Russia this summer.
The first round of tryouts were held in November, and Cook was invited to main camp, which took place over the weekend.
Her soccer pedigree is impressive. Cook was the leader of an unbeatable UBC Thunderbirds defence. In the nine regular season games she played, the team gave up only five goals.
Great at playing balls in the air, she moves in front of the opposing net for corners and set pieces, and scored two game-winning goals.
She was named an All-Canadian twice – on the second team this season, and first team last year.
However, she tried out for the World University Games team two years ago, and didn’t make the final cut.
“It was tough [to take], but I didn’t really prepare for it,” she said. “There’s a lot more than just soccer skill that they’re looking for.”
She knew it might take a special effort to make the team.
In January, she started working hard on her fitness, aiming to increase her quickness and mobility on pitch. She picked local trainer Adam Francilia
He says she has great potential as a soccer prospect, with strength and mental toughness, and making strides in her foot speed and agility.
Turning 23 in August, he said: “She’s hitting her stride as an athlete now.”
There were six centre defenders invited to camp and three would make the team.
Cook was one of the first calls from coach Liz Jepsen, who is also the full-time coach with the University of Alberta. She crushed the fitness testing, and the Canadian team coaching staff also like the character she brings.
“I was super excited,” she said. “She just said they were impressed with my skills, and that I bring a lot more than just that.”
Leadership has been one of her great contributions to UBC in recent seasons. Gary Moody, UBC assistant coach, notes Cook has been Mrs. Everything as the team captain for two years. She solidifies the defence by being good aerially, having great anticipation, and being strong on the tackle.
“She wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s the outgoing captain, and she’ll be sorely missed,” he said. “I wish her everything she deserves.”
She has played out a five-year scholarship at UBC, and now has a semester to go before she graduates with a degree in sociology.
University soccer is done for her. She was on the Vancouver Whitecaps reserve team, but the women’s program has unfortunately folded, leaving Cook’s competitive soccer career suddenly very uncertain.
Except for this summer’s competition.
The World University Games, July 6 to 17, will be held in Kazan, which is a centre of learning in Russia. In a city of 1.2 million people, some 200,000 are students. It is also steeped in history, as the Tatarstan city is 1,000 years old. It promises to be a great experience.
“If I have to go out, this would be a great note to go out on.”