VACAVILLE — The past year or so has been a soccer whirlwind for Vacaville Christian High graduate Katelyn Rowland – and she’s absolutely loving it.
In December she stood tall in goal for the UCLA women’s soccer team, helping the Bruins survive a grueling postseason run en route to the national championship.
On Thursday, she and the rest of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National team flew to Canada to prepare to compete in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
“It’s kind of a feeling you can’t describe,” Rowland said. “It’s been a goal since I was 13. To say I’m excited is an understatement, for sure.”
The 20-year-old Rowland has been in the USA’s National Team programs since she was 14 and said she felt “fortunate” to have been involved with the national development structure for so many years.
“I tried to stay confident,” she said of gearing up for the U-20 Women’s World Cup since last January. “I worked hard every camp.”
So have her teammates. Despite being in murderous Group B, which also includes Germany, Brazil and China, Rowland likes her team’s chances.
“I’m really confident (because of) how our team has come together,” she said. “The chemistry on and off field has only grown. . . . If we play to the best of our ability, we can come out successful.”
The USA opens against Germany at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday and plays against Brazil in the same location on Friday.
Rowland and her teammates then head to Moncton Stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick, to play China on Aug. 12.
The quarterfinals are Aug. 16 and 17, the semifinals are Aug. 20 and the third-place and championship games are Aug. 24 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
“We’re going to have to be at our best,” Rowland said. “(There’s) a lot nerves. There are going to be a lot of players new to World Cup. . . . We’ve been working really hard. The chemistry has really formed. When the chemistry’s together and strong is when you’re most successful.”
Rowland has certainly already been successful in recent months. She was awarded the Golden Glove at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in January after recording shutouts in each of her four outings in the tournament.
And then there’s UCLA’s run to the national championship, during which Rowland played a pivotal role. The junior made saves on two penalty shots in the semifinal shootout win over Virginia before blanking Florida State in the championship match, her fifth shutout in six NCAA playoff games.
“That was almost an unbelievable experience, obviously,” Rowland said. “It was a little different for me. We had to turn around and qualify (for the World Cup) in January. It was a little different, a little difficult to come down from the national championship. But it was really cool.”
Though the NCAAs and the U-20 World Cup feature different atmospheres – UCLA played its first three playoff games at home, for example – Rowland sees some similarities.
“A lot of girls from UCLA are on the national team,” she said. “I’m blessed to have both environments. As competitive as they are it’s not as much of a transition to go to the national team from UCLA. . . . The same competition just drives the girls in both journeys. It’s really exciting.”
Rowland, a sociology major, hopes to one day play professionally as well as make the “full” national women’s team. She started playing soccer when she was 5, but didn’t become a full-time goalkeeper for several more years – almost by accident.
“My coach’s wife put me in (at goalkeeper) when I was 11,” she said. “I didn’t like it at first, but I stuck it out and I loved it. Obviously, it worked out for me. I’m very thankful.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.