“No!” That was the response Christina Gibbons received every time she tried to make a United States Women’s soccer team.
But not this year.
Gibbons, a standout at Cardinal Gibbons and now Duke, recently made the U.S. 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup team. She’ll be joined by North Carolina forward Summer Green, and fellow Blue Devil Rebecca Quinn will play for Team Canada.
Gibbons’ road to the national squad has been filled with disappointment, hard work and eventual satisfaction. While at Cardinal Gibbons High, she failed to make any of the U.S. teams. Gibbons fought on, earning All-State honors her final three years at Cardinal Gibbons, including the 2013 season in which she was named the MVP of the 3A state championship game. And that was more than enough to get the attention of Duke coach Robbie Church.
“Christina is a fantastic story,” Church said. “When she was young, her teammates got into the national team. She was always next in line. But she never gave up; she kept working.”
Church and his staff kept an eye on Gibbons and offered her a spot on the Duke squad.
As a freshman, Gibbons started all 24 matches and played a team-high 2,228 minutes as a defender. The Blue Devils posted seven shutouts in 24 matches behind Gibbons and the defense. The experience and success – Gibbons was named to the All-ACC Freshman team – expanded her game and gave her confidence heading into the U.S. trials.
She trained for eight days with the team in Seattle and then waited to see if she performed well enough. When U.S. coach Michelle French released the 21-member roster July 18, Gibbons’ name was on it. At long last.
“It’s a lot of relief,” she said. “It’s a good feeling knowing the hard work paid off. The support has been overwhelming these past couple days.”
The celebration was short-lived, as Gibbons must now turn around and get to work with the U.S. squad before competition starts Aug. 5.
One drawback to competing internationally is that Gibbons and Quinn will miss the remainder of Duke’s practices and exhibitions leading to their first regular season game against Ohio State on Aug. 22.
If the U.S. or Canada makes it to the final, they will miss Duke’s opener. But Church is sure the experience of facing different styles of soccer at an international level will benefit the players more than missing practice will hurt them.
“They’ll miss a lot of our stuff depending on how they do,” Church said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for them. I think it’s a big positive. They play against different styles ... international is a bit more composed.”
Gibbons understands that as well.
“It will give me more experience at a high level,” Gibbons said. “Not only U.S., but across the world. It’s an honor to be here.”
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