Tuesday afternoon, the Canadian women’s national team released their squad list for their upcoming slate of games, a celebration tour after their gold medal victory at the recent Olympics in Japan. They called in 22 players to compose the main squad, and an additional 4 training players who would come in to get camp experience with the national team. Among the training players was Wake Forest Demon Deacon Nikayla Small.
Small, a freshman from Pickering, Ontario, has probably been the Deacs’ best player this year, and has become one of the ACC’s premier 8s. She’s registered a goal and 4 assists so far this season, starting each and every one of Wake’s 14 games. Her effort goes far beyond the stat sheet, as her energy, calmness in possession, and ability to recover defensively have made her indispensable for Tony Da Luz as the Deacs have torn through their schedule, currently holding a 12-2 record and 4-2 conference record, as well as the 23rd ranking in the Top Drawer Soccer poll.
This isn’t Small’s first experience in the Canadian national team setup, she has ample youth experience in their system, having played for their under 17 and under 15 national teams, earning Best XI honors at the CONCACAF Championships with the U-17s, and a nomination for Best Youth Player in Canada in 2019. However, this is her first time getting experience with the senior national team, with Small being one of the six college players that were called in. Jayde Riviere (Michigan), Julia Grosso (Texas), and Deanne Rose (Florida) were all members of the gold medal squad and Gabby Carle (Florida State) was an alternate, while Small and Jade Rose (Harvard) join the squad for the first time as training players.
In the Canadian Football Association’s press release about the roster confirmation, head coach Bev Priestmann had the following to say about his decision to call up four training players in addition to the main squad: “We felt it was also an important opportunity to assess and build for the future by taking a look at some new players or assess players we know in different positions around the training environment as we start the journey for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and Olympic Games 2024.”
This call up leaves the Deacs without Small for their home finale against NC State on October 21st, their road clash at Pitt on the 24th, and potentially even their regular season finale at Notre Dame on the 28th, as the Canadian national team is set to play New Zealand in Ottawa on the 23rd and in Montreal on the 26th. More importantly though, it presents an awesome opportunity for Small to work her way into an elite national team squad and improve even more as a player. It is an opportunity she has earned through her great play this season, and hopefully it will only the first of many callups from the Canadian national team for her.