Haiti U17 women set successful tone for future

Haiti (pictured) gathers for a team photo prior to the CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship third place match against Canada on November 13, 2016, in St. George's, Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – It wasn’t the way Haiti wanted to end its 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship (CU17W) journey.

Then again, for a team that had never won a game in a pair of previous tournament appearances, to be competing in the match for third place was a massive accomplishment.

Last Sunday, the Caribbean runner-up’s rally fell short – and so did its bid for a FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup berth -- in a 4-2 loss to Canada at the Grenada Athletics Stadium. After a scoreless first half, the Canadians struck four times during a 20-minute span, before Nerilia Mondesir -- the CU17W’s leading scorer with seven goals -- netted a late brace.

“This is our best finish ever in this competition, so it was a fantastic experience for our players,” said head coach Shek Borkowski. “Hopefully, this is something that will benefit us in the next cycle.”

There can be no denying Haiti’s success over the course of 11 days in Grenada and what it means for the future. A perfect 3-0-0 record in group play, which included a 2-1 win over Canada, led to a first-place finish in Group A.

The Haitians dropped a 3-0 decision to Mexico in the semifinals, but the loss of Mikerline Saint Felix to a knee injury in that match proved to be an obstacle too large. Saint Felix, at that point, was level with Mondesir on five goals as the top CU17W scorers.

That personnel setback – along with previous injuries to Magdala Macean and Nelourde Nicolas – put Haiti in a position that simply could not be overcome.

“We don’t have enough depth to be consistently competitive at this level,” Borkowski remarked. “We didn’t have Mikerline, who was our leading goalscorer tied with five goals with Nerilia. Once we didn’t have Magdala, both of them have torn ACLs, and once we didn’t have Nelourde, who came in here with a torn ACL, that’s three players…had we had them…we would have been more competitive.

“It’s going to be difficult for us to beat any of these top opponents with our best 11 and when we don’t have our best 11, it becomes an uphill battle.”

Nonetheless, the future looks bright for a Haiti side that benefitted from strong contributions from influential 12-year-old midfielder Melchie Daelle ‘Coventina’ Dumonay.

“I think that we…just a little bit…narrowed the gap between maybe us, Canada, Mexico and the U.S.,” Borkowski commented in his final analysis. “I think we are making slow progress at the younger age groups. We still have a couple kids that will be playing here for the next two cycles at this level.”

Great news for Haiti and even better for the development of women’s football in CONCACAF.