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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Evelyn Arsenault lands UConn soccer scholarship, Latvian national team berth

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Ottawa South United Force centre-back and Earl of March Secondary School senior Evelyn Arsenault is headed to the University of Connecticut. Photo provided

By Martin Cleary

When Evelyn Arsenault sees something that will make her a better athlete, she goes for it. Twice in the past two years, she has reached out and seized major life-changing prizes.

A Grade 12 student at Earl of March Secondary School, Arsenault is a confident go-getter who isn’t afraid to step forward to better her future, which has led to an NCAA soccer scholarship and a berth on an international soccer team.

“I am always seeking opportunities to take myself to the next level,” Arsenault wrote in an email interview. “I truly believe that effort and mindset has a massive impact on what you do. So, everyone, never give up.”

Simply by taking advantage of her opportunities and knowing what’s going on around her, the honor roll student now has a full soccer scholarship to the University of Connecticut and was part of the girls’ U17 Latvian national team.

When Arsenault started the taxing process of determining where to go to university, she first created her list of eligible candidates. Connecticut, a.k.a. UConn, was at the top of her list and that choice never wavered.

In November 2019, her Ottawa South United soccer team played in a showcase tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina. Showcase competitions attract dozens of university coaches looking for key players for their future.

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“I found out that the UConn coaches were attending, so I reached out to them and one of the coaches was able to come see me play,” she continued. “We started communicating back and forth.

“And from there, I had a bunch of Zoom calls and emails with the coaching staff over the next few months. I verbally committed to the team in September (2020) of my Grade 12 year and I’m going on a full athletic scholarship.”

UConn-bound Evelyn Arsenault. Photo provided

Since Arsenault enjoyed the business-related courses she has taken at Earl of March, likes working with numbers and learning about the economy, she plans to do her undergraduate in business and declare her major later.

In August 2019, Arsenault contacted the Latvian Football Federation about earning a spot on the women’s U17 national team. She has Latvian citizenship through her maternal grandparents.

Arsenault introduced herself to the coaches by sending “lots of game highlights, my player profile and OSU also reached out for me.” A month later, she was invited to a women’s U17 national team training camp.

Although she couldn’t speak or understand Latvian, she felt welcomed at the three-day camp before flying to Ukraine for two friendly matches. She started both games at centre back and played the full 90 minutes each time.

Arsenault impressed the Latvian coaches, who invited her back for the women’s U17 European qualifiers. Despite losing all three games – 6-0 to The Netherlands, 4-0 to Portugal and 2-1 to Israel – she played every minute of each game.

“It was unbelievable to play at such a high level with such amazing people,” Arsenault wrote. “The Latvian Football Federation staff are some of the kindest people I have ever met.

“And I made some great friends on the team that I still talk to every week. I haven’t been able to play for Latvia again due to COVID complications, but I would love to represent Latvia again in the future.”

Playing and training with the Latvian team allowed Arsenault to see soccer from a totally different perspective, one which will motivate her to step up her game to the next level.

Arsenault was impressed by the team’s attention to detail to prepare for training sessions and games. She felt she was being treated like a professional athlete.

“You are always eating with your team,” she added, “your nutrition is being monitored, you have activation sessions, physio sessions, health checks, curfews, fitness work, team tours, recovery swims, daily meetings, team walks and presentations.

“The skill level of the competition at that stage is unbelievable. I was astonished at the technical/tactical ability of some of the players. I really enjoyed matching up against them defensively.”

Arsenault has numerous highlights playing with Ottawa South United during the past five years. In 2019, her team became the first to win the Ontario Player Development League Cup, League and Charity Shield titles.

At Earl of March, she played on the Lions girls’ senior soccer team in Grades 9 and 10. She won the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association title in Grade 9 and went to the OFSAA championship in 2018. She was junior athlete of the year in 2019.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled her junior and senior high school soccer seasons and her OSU season in 2020, Arsenault has stayed disciplined and continued to train hard using whatever methods were available.

“I really miss the game and competition,” she continued. “I try to put the whole situation into perspective and appreciate that I have been so fortunate during COVID.

“I have an amazing family, technology to continue my schooling and great access to healthcare. Unfortunately with the virus, there are so many things you can’t control. I try to focus on what I can do.”

Read More in this series on Ottawa’s HIGH SCHOOL BEST here.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.

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