Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's women's Under-20 football team will wrap up their local camp this morning, from 7:30 to 9:30, at the Jamaica Football Federation Training Centre, UWI and then head to Florida in the United States tomorrow to continue preparation for the 2014 CONCACAF tournament that will be held in the Cayman Islands from January 9-19.
The squad went through a rigid fitness camp over the weekend and will practise in Florida until January 7. They will then head to the Cayman Islands.
While in Florida, the team will play two friendly games - against an All-Star University team on January 4 and 6.
"It is very important to assemble as a unit and play these games ahead of the tournament in the Cayman Islands," Xavier Gilbert, coach of the Jamaica team, told The Gleaner yesterday morning.
The Jamaicans are drawn in Group A, alongside powerhouse the United States, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Group B comprises hosts Cayman Islands, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras.
The top-two teams from each group will progress to the semi-finals, with both winners advancing to the World Cup later this year. The third-place play-off will decide the other qualifier from CONCACAF.
"I'm optimistic. Our objective is to make it to the semis then take it from there. We should have little problems in advancing to the semis," Gilbert said confidently.
"I believe we have the toughest group, but I still think we can finish in the top two," he emphasised.
"These girls are more experienced as they have played at the CONCACAF level before. This is the most talented team I have seen since the play-offs in 2006," added Gilbert.
The young Reggae Girlz will kick off their campaign in the 2014 CONCACAF Championship against Guatemala at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in the Cayman Islands on January 9, starting at 5 p.m.
They are on the hunt for a historic berth in the FIFA Women's Under-20 World Cup to be held in Canada in August. And with Canada not involved in the CONCACAF Tournament, the coaching staff believe they have their best shot at creating history.
"Definitely!" Gilbert said of their chances. "We want to start the campaign with a win and all being well, we should get the three points."
Jamaican advanced to the CONCACAF Finals in the World Cup Qualifiers when they edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in the Caribbean Football Union final on October 27 at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex. Trinidad & Tobago also qualified for the next stage.
The Jamaica squad includes Marlo Sweatman (captain), Toriana Patterson, Nicole Harris, Mackenzie Marsh, Alika Keane, Cachet Lue, Oshay Nelson Lawes, Taylor Grant, Khadija Shaw, Trudi Carter, Kayla Gray, Courtney Douglas, Konya Plummer, Jorja Hughes, Simone Wark, Myjnairii Perkins, Keona Simmonds, Alexa Allen , Imani Richards and Chris-Ann Chambers.
The officials are: Lorraine Scringer (head of delegation), Vinimore Blaine (coach), Xavier Gilbert (assistant coach), Jean Nelson (manager) and Dr Ephraim Ingram (team doctor).