In­ter­na­tional duty calls Zandi

Hen­der­son se­nior half­way around the world with U17 na­tional team

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jil­lian An­ge­line jil­lian­lan­ge­line@gmail.com @JLAn­ge­line on Twit­ter

ZARQA, JOR­DAN >> Syd­ney Zandi’s West Ch­ester Hen­der­son team­mates are in the midst of an­other tough sea­son of Ches-Mont League bat­tles.

But Zandi her­self has other press­ing mat­ters to at­tend to, like the FIFA U17 Womens World Cup, which kicked off this week in Jor­dan.

Zandi, a mid­fielder for the United States team, did not play in Satur­day’s group stage opener, a 6-1 win over Paraguay at the Prince Mo­hammed Sta­dium in Zarqa. But she hopes to see ac­tion later in the tour­na­ment.

“We’re try­ing to take one game at a time and not worry about the oth­ers be­cause once we keep win­ning, the more we’ll ad­vance on,” said Zandi last week, when the team was in Cyprus pre­par­ing for the tour­na­ment. “And we’re just try­ing to stick to our core val­ues and, as a mid­fielder, I’m just try­ing to play the style of play they want me to and how I nor­mally play no mat­ter who our op­po­nent is.”

The Amer­i­can women will be fac­ing dif­fer­ent styles of play in Group D dur­ing the World Cup, with Ghana, Ja­pan and Paraguay as the first set of ob­sta­cles to a ti­tle.

Zandi and her team­mates pre­pared for the tour­na­ment with a se­ries of games in Sara­sota, Florida, in­clud­ing friendlies against Venezuela. The U17 play­ers beat Venezuela, 5-1, in the sec­ond game against the South Amer­i­can team.

“They play much more di­rect and when they would come on the field be­fore the game and they were warm­ing up, they would do their chants and yell and we’ve never seen that be­fore,” Zandi said. “It’s def­i­nitely a lot dif­fer­ent be­cause you could see how pas­sion­ate they were

for their coun­try, how de­ter­mined they were to win, which was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere than we ever ex­pe­ri­enced.”

Zandi, who was the Ga­torade Penn­syl­va­nia Player of the Year in 2015, did not the play as Amer­i­cans opened Group D play with a 5-1 win over Paraguay.

Soc­cer is a fam­ily af­fair for Zandi and her fam­ily. She was on the Amer­i­can U14 team and was scouted at an Olympic De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram event.

“Once I got the first in­vite, I was like this is what I want to do,” she said, ad­ding that the more com­pet­i­tive the tour­na­ment, the more ex­cited she gets. “This is the kind of en­vi­ron­ment that I want to be sur­rounded by at all times. So, I’ve just con­tin­u­ously worked hard and im­proved my game to try and make it this far.”

Zandi has al­ready com­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia, where she will join the Class of 2021. She made the de­ci­sion dur­ing her sopho­more year at Hen­der­son, and now she’s a se­nior.

De­spite be­ing half­way around the world, Zandi and her team­mates must still fo­cus on the high school course­work they are miss­ing at home. Aca­demics re­main a pri­or­ity, even though it can be hard to fo­cus.

Zandi said she and her team­mates usu­ally miss about a week of school ev­ery month. But in this case, they are hop­ing to be gone for the full five weeks, which would mean they ad­vanced all the way to the U17 World Cup fi­nal, sched­uled for Fri­day, Oct. 21, in Amman, Jor­dan.

That means on­line classes.

“Now that it’s on­line school, it’s a lot bet­ter be­cause it gives me a lot more time to train,” Zandi said.

Usu­ally, she does home­work dur­ing the camps and takes all the make-up tests when she re­turns.

The play­ers say they have a team playlist, at times danc­ing in the locker room and get­ting pumped for the ac­tion. When Zandi takes the field in Jor­dan, she will not be with­out her head­band for each and ev­ery game.

“I al­ways have to wear the same head­band,” Zandi said. “I have this weird su­per­sti­tion where it’s this red, white and blue tie-dye head­band that I made and I have to wear it for ev­ery game.”

She’s even made one for each of her team­mates.

This will be the first fe­male world cup played in the Mid­dle East. Zandi said she heard games are be­ing well-ad­ver­tised in Jor­dan and the tro­phy has been visit­ing schools to in­spire kids. She said the push for em­pow­er­ing women in the re­gion through sport is re­ally in­spir­ing.

As for coach BJ Snow’s ad­vice as they look ahead, Zandi said they’ve been told to fo­cus on their game play.

“But at the end of the day, just to stick to what we usu­ally do and just fight through ev­ery­thing with our grit and just have self-be­lief so that in the end even if we lose, we still know we tried our best,” Zandi said. Jil­lian An­ge­line is a jour­nal­ist work­ing with the In­ter­na­tional Sports Press As­so­ci­a­tion at this month’s FIFA U17 Womens World Cup in Jor­dan. She will pro­vid­ing pe­ri­odic up­dates on Syd­ney Zandi and the U.S. team for the Daily Lo­cal News. Her web­site is www.4jil­lianan­ge­line. com. You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @JLAn­ge­line.

PHOTO BY JIL­LIAN AN­GE­LINE

The U.S., and Paraguay teams line up be­fore Satur­day’s Group D match at the Girls U17 World Cup in Jor­dan.

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