McGlynn helps lead US U20 Women's National Team to World Cup

BLACKSBURG - Since the final whistle blew on the Virginia Tech women’s soccer season back in October, less than four months ago, the journey for the Hokies’ starting goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn has seen her head to three U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team events and the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship – the level’s World Cup qualifying tournament - and this week is heading to France for a training camp with the team.

McGlynn, a rising junior from Jacksonville, Florida, helped lead the Americans to runner-up finish in the CONCACAF tournament as she posted a 3-1 record in four starts as the team qualified for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France, Aug. 5 through the 24.

Her journey began after she had just finished her 2017 campaign in which she started all 18 games in goal for Tech, notched a 7-6-5 record and had seven shutouts, tying for the second-most ever in a single season at the school, when she got the call for the first camp.

“I was still in school in the fall and they (U.S. Soccer) called in girls who were not in the NCAA tournament, so that is when I went into the first camp in November,” McGlynn said. “We had that camp, then a second in late December, where the girls who were in the postseason came in and the last one was just before the qualifier tournament. That’s where we had our whole team there and a few alternates.

“Then they picked the team and I was one of two goalies picked and was called in for the qualifier. We went to Trinidad and Tobago and that was just a truly amazing experience with those girls.”

The Tech goalkeeper was one of 20 players selected to the U-20 WNT, with the other keeper a player very familiar to McGlynn. Laurel Ivory, a fellow Floridian and the starting keeper for the Virginia Cavaliers, was also heading with the team to the championship.

The 2018 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship featured eight nations divided into two groups of four teams. The top two finishers in each group qualified for the semifinals, with the winners of those games along with the winner of the third-place match earning berths to the World Cup.

All 16 matches of the tournament took place across eight days at Ato Bolden Stadium in Couva, Trinidad. The United States opened the tournament on Jan. 19 against Nicaragua, before facing Jamaica on Jan. 21 and ended group play against Mexico on Jan. 23.

McGlynn did not see any action in the first match, but was slotted as the starter against Jamaica where she made a pair of saves in a 2-1 victory. To her, in a bit of a surprise, she found her name on the starting lineup against Mexico and then in both the semifinal and championship games.

“I was initially the third goalkeeper coming into the first camp and then through the process I worked my way up to the number 2 spot, which I was very proud of in itself in doing that,” McGlynn said. “My goal was to just go to qualifiers, I didn’t care if I played, I just wanted to be there with the team. So, once I got there, I just competed every second and when our goalkeepers’ coach said that there was no number 1 or number 2 spot, that’s when I knew there was a chance that I could possibly play on the field and represent the national team.

“So, I put everything into every training session and they saw it and it worked out really well and I got to play. I initially thought that I was going to play the second game. They were going to play Laurel in the first game, then me in the second game, and then Laurel the rest of the time – just give me an easier game, the Jamaican game – but I just showed well in that game and in training, and once I saw my name on the lineup the next night, I was just overwhelmed.

“And it’s hard, because Laurel and I are just the best friends on the team and we have nothing but respect for each other and support each other. And it stinks because there are just two of us there, so that means only one of us will play and the other won’t, but we support each other no matter what.”

McGlynn would start against Mexico, another 2-1 victory, before getting the start in the semifinal match against Haiti. With a win and the US would advance to the championship game and qualify for the World Cup, a loss and the team would need a win in the consolation final game to make it to France.

The match went back and forth, with each team posting at least a dozen shots and each goalkeeper coming up with big saves. The US led 1-0 late in the match, so late, many were just anticipating the final whistle, but Haiti’s Nerilia Mondesir broke through in extra time and tied the game – which normally sends the game into overtime, but instead it went straight to a shootout.

McGlynn, who had just allowed a game-tying goal, came up huge. She stopped two penalty kicks and her teammates converted on three to give the Americans the win. For her performance, McGlynn was named the Woman of the Match.

“It was very hard to compose myself because we kind of finished the game thinking that we had already won,” she said. “We thought they were going to blow the whistle right after the throw-in but we just let our guard down for a second and that girl made a good run and they capitalized on it. There was something like 30 seconds left in the game.

“And every time, any goal that goes in, I think about myself. What could I have done differently? How could I have been better? I shouldn’t have let that happen. So, when I walked over to the sidelines to regroup for the overtime, my goalkeeper coach says, ‘We’re going straight to PKs’. So, I was so overwhelmed. I just put my team in a 50-50 chance to qualify and I’m thinking about all that I’ve done wrong.

“I’m about to get all emotional and Laurel pulled me away from the group and said ‘We believe in you! You got this! We’ve practiced this in training and you’re amazing at them. Just do what you do best.’ It took everything in me to just get zoned into that moment. I was just in another world and it was just amazing. I knew what I needed to do and I thought to myself, I’m not going to let them score. And I did and we won. It was just an amazing feeling.”

Just a couple days later, the feeling was gone, though, as the US team dropped the championship game to Mexico. The game mirrored the Haiti game as the Americans were down 1-0 at the break but scored an equalizer in the second half. This game did go an extra 30 minutes before heading into another shootout the team lost 4-2.

“I think going into overtime of that game, with the whole tournament, we were just mentally drained,” she said. “We were exhausted and that we had to do an extra 30 minutes on top of the 90-minute game – even for a goalkeeper, I’m not do all the running, but I was very tired mentally and emotionally. Knowing that any second it could just go anyway.

“Going to the shootout, my job is to save one and they have the job to score five. I did my job, and unfortunately, we couldn’t do it on the other end. The Mexico keeper came up with two really big saves for her team and they won. It was frustrating, we had so many chances, just couldn’t put them away.”

Since returning to the States after the tournament, McGlynn has been a bit busy trying to figure out her spring semester. Her plan is to take two online classes here at Virginia Tech while staying in Orlando to train with the Orlando Pride, a professional women’s soccer team in the NWSL. She will be busy with training camps as well with the national team.

“There is a camp every month, so that’s why I can’t be here for lectures,” she explained. “The first camp is Feb. 23 and we are going to France for friendlies and then after that we go to Spain for a tournament. We do a domestic camp, then we go back to France and then another domestic camp. Then there’s the World Cup, July 24 to hopefully Aug. 24.

“With all this, though, I can’t assume that I’ll be on the team. There’s a percentage on how much you know, but you have to compete at every event and it makes sense. They want to take the very best and they want you to think that anyone can take a spot, which is very true. I can’t say 100 percent I am going, but I was part of the qualifying team for the World Cup and will be in all these camps. They will take three goalies, so I can say that I have a good feeling.”

On the U-20 qualifying roster, there were five players from ACC schools, while there were almost double that from Pac-12 programs. If McGlynn does make the World Cup te'sam, she excited to represent both the US and her Hokie family at the tournament.

“It’s just a tremendous honor to be representing the US at the highest level that I can right now, at my age,” she said. “It’s humbling and just a privilege and it just means everything to me. I’m not sure I can describe it any more than that.

“A lot of the girls come from powerhouse teams, like Stanford, UCLA, USC, and I’m proud to represent my Hokies. I love Virginia Tech and I love our soccer program and the fact that I can put them on the map, showing them that we can play at the highest level is a tremendous honor as a Hokie. I love my Virginia Tech family and my USA family and I’m glad I get to do both.”

The U-20 Women’s World Cup will be half the size of the Men’s World Cup, which is set to begin in mid-June in Russia. The Americans are one of 16 teams, which will be broken up into four groups with the top two teams advancing to the knockout stage. The official draw is set for March 8.

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