Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and the VCU women’s soccer team reflects that international appeal.

About 20% of the team is made up of international players from Canada, New Zealand and Brazil. This gives the Rams the highest concentration of foreign players for women’s soccer in the Colonial Athletic Association.

While scouting, signing and moving players from other countries to VCU may be difficult, the extra effort pays off.

Senior Myriam Bouchard is a native of Quebec City, Canada and represents one of the many international successes for the Rams. This Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association team member has been a mainstay in the starting lineup since she arrived as a freshman in Richmond. Her experience as captain of the Canadian women’s soccer team in the U-20 World Championships in 2008 is one example of the assets foreign players can bring to their college teams.

“I try to bring the attitude of world class playing and training to be the best. If you’re on a national team, then you’re the best in the country. I try to bring that mental attitude to be the best at VCU or in the CAA,” Bouchard said.

When it came to playing for her country in the U-20 World Cup, Bouchard was forced to red shirt for the Rams’ 2008 season. Despite giving up a season for VCU, she knew her coaches would understand because of the staff’s firm belief in the importance of players’ goals.

“One thing Tim and I want to do here is help our players reach their ultimate goals. We sit down and ask all of our players what their goals are in soccer and outside of soccer,” Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak said. “We could be selfish and say no (to leaving for international play), we need you, but ultimately our goal is to help our players reach their goals. Ultimately it all helped us. All of that international play, going against the best players in her country every day, [Bouchard] came back to us as a better player.”

 Junior Molly Allen has been a member of several Canadian National teams, most recently playing with the U-20 squad.

For some of the other Rams, they are just beginning their collegiate careers with the wealth of international experience already.

Sophomore and New Zealand native Leah Gallie (pictured, left) is one of those Rams. By the time she arrived in Richmond this fall, after transferring from Division II University of Bridgeport, she had already represented her country in the 2008 U-17 World Cup. International competition gave Gallie the opportunity to grow individually.

“I learned a lot just from the environment, which is so competitive. I also learned my role as a player on and off the field. It definitely helped me grow,” Gallie noted.

Coaches cherish the world class experience incoming players, like Gallie, can bring to their programs.

As Coach Roberts Sahaydak noted, “The intensity, what they’re playing for in a world championship, the different distractions that can be involved with traveling are all things that help players grows up at a young age. It helps that player make the transition into playing at the collegiate level.”

Gallie has been proving her coach’s point well as she has transitioned smoothly this year. She has appeared in every game for the Rams and started seven of those games.

Planning ahead, Gallie just has to look to her senior captain to see what it takes to continue representing VCU and her home country proudly. Bouchard’s stint on the Canadian U-20 national team came as a product of hard work and being in a tremendous soccer environment provided by the Ram family. Bouchard acts as an inspiration for Gallie and her aspirations of continuing her participation on New Zealand national teams.

The future of VCU Women Soccer’s international flavor seems to be bright. As Bouchard caps off her career with the Black & Gold, she leaves four other international players on the Rams’ roster.

Just as important is the internationally-appealing environment created by VCU Women’s Soccer and its coaching staff. The staff has a wealth of international playing experience themselves, and their team has helped develop players for international competition. This goal-oriented atmosphere and approach will only help nurture the aspirations of their current international players, and it will attract plenty of future international recruits.

Written by VCU Athletics Communication Graduate Assistant Matt Ensor