MIAMI, Florida --- Marlo Sweatman, as she tells it, is not easily overwhelmed by occasions.
That is until she met her match.
On that wet and cold October afternoon in Frisco, Texas, the Reggae Girlz midfielder became a part of something bigger than herself.
In a dramatic Concacaf Women’s Championship (CWC) Third-Place match against Panama in October 2018, Jamaica did the unthinkable: it made history and qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France by defeating the Central Americans 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 thriller of regular and extra time play.
Sweatman, 25, recollects the nerve-wracking hours leading up to the high stakes game.
“We were all excited, a lot of nerves, but healthy nerves. But we were ready,” she told Concacaf.com.
Personally, she tried her best to keep a cool head, not wanting to allow the sense of occasion to get the better of her.
“I was most likely being quiet and just staying focused for the game as much as I could without letting my mind wander too much about the level of pressure of the possible outcome of this match,” she said.
The Hungary-based professional, who offered a steady pair of feet and level-headed calmness in the heart of midfield throughout the CWC campaign, said she was pleased to see that other members of the team were “super relaxed” ahead of kick-off.
“Everyone was doing their normal thing, as we knew the importance of this game, but we went about it like it was any other game: headphones in, focused and ready.
“We were really hyped and pumped up for this game. We knew that everything we went through before had led to this moment, so we were positive, excited and ready,” Sweatman noted.
She believed that the confidence started to soar when the game got underway and the positive football the team was delivering at Toyota Stadium. Taking a 1-0 lead at end of the first half fuelled a sense of excitement and possibilities.
“In the first half our hopes were high as we were up [leading the match 1-0], so we went into the locker room just thinking to stay focused, keep fighting.
“Of course, going into the second half with the lead and getting such a taste of qualifying may have been even more difficult than if we were down a goal. We tried not get overly excited about how close we are to making history, but to stay focused, calm and disciplined,” noted Sweatman.
In the dressing room, Sweatman recalls there was a chorus of intense verbal communications among players and between players and coaches.
“A lot of voices; players talking, coaches talking. There were instructions on what to change and do better. It was like everything was going 100 miles per hour towards the end and we all relaxed and took breathes and we were ready to go back on the field,” she noted.
With the game tied at 2-2 and the clock ticking away the final moments of extra time, Sweatman said that, somehow, she was able to smell victory in the air.
“In my head, I was still 100 percent confident we were going to qualify, but I just couldn’t wait for the final whistle to blow. It felt like the longest second half,” she added.
The Virginia native saluted a number of teammates, who she believes did a lot of the heavy lifting to keep Jamaica on course for its moment of football history.
“As always, goal-keeper Sydney [Schneider] came up big with saves and Bunny [Khadisha Shaw] and Jody [Brown] came up with the goals in regular and extra time play.
“I think myself and Chinyelu [Asher] brought experience, knowledge and composure… Lauren Silver, Konya [Plummer], Dominique [Bond-Flazsa] and Allyson [Swaby] brought the physicality,” she said.
Sweatman, who plays for Hungarian women’s top-flight club Szent Mihaly, pointed to the heroics of substitute goalkeeper Nicole McClure, who was brought on for the penalty shootout.
“It was a great call to put in McClure, and anyone who knows her, would know she’s a fighter, and that whatever she puts her mind to she will achieve,” she expressed.
McClure, who had not played a game in the CWC, pulled off two dramatic saves in the penalty lottery that put her team in command and ultimately into an unassailable position against the gallant Panamanians.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“It was a dream come true for every single player that we had won the game and qualified. I didn’t stop crying tears of joy until the next day. And I think everyone on the island felt that joy with us.
“We came together in the locker room singing the Jamaica National Anthem, and at times, adding our twist to it. Words cannot describe the joy we felt,” Sweatman concluded.