Naomi Perkins wanted to make an impression. Six goals later, Perkins may be the only player anyone remembers.
Perkins, a Vancouver Whitecaps prospect at the Kootenay academy, travelled with three teams to Seattle for the AstroTurf Collegiate Showcase in November. Scouts from 21 schools were present for the tournament, and Perkins was hoping to show off what she could do.
What she did electrified everyone in attendance. Perkins scored six goals in four games for the Whitecaps’ under-17 squad, including a hat trick in one game.
The 17-year-old Nelson native is hoping to get a scholarship, but before the tournament began she was trying not to think about the scouts in the stands.
“I keep it in the back of my mind to play hard because there’s people watching me, but if I make a mistake I try not to carry that through the rest of the game,” said Perkins.
Perkins, who attends Grade 12 at L.V. Rogers, started playing soccer when she was three years old and has trained with the Whitecaps since she was 14. The striker describes herself as aggressive on the pitch. “I like to take people one-on-one,” she said.
Her performance delighted Whitecaps Kootenay regional head coach Brett Adams.
“Naomi, she’s a special player. (She’s) one that we’ve been working with for three years now and we’ve always had high expectations for her,” said Adams. “It’s not always gone the way that Naomi would want in some of these tournaments because … we were playing really amazing teams or we just weren’t putting the performance together.
“But because the team played so well (in Seattle), it gave Naomi that opportunity to expose how good she is as a player. … I would imagine she probably caught the eye of scouts while she was there.”
It was the second year the Whitecaps visited the tournament, but the first that the teams, which also included U-15 and U-16 squads, managed to win at. Adams said the trip gave players and coaches important matches against skilled teams, as well as gave them a bar to measure their own development against.
“It was obviously very, very pleasing to go down to the States to face some stiff competition, some really, really good competition and be able to come away with some great performances,” said Adams. “Absolutely proud of the players and their ability to go down (and) just do what we’ve been doing in training.”
Perkins, meanwhile, isn’t sure if she’ll make soccer a career – right now all she wants to do is get recruited – but the game is important to her. She cites Canada’s Christine Sinclair, American Alex Morgan and Brazil’s Marta as her favourite players and was in the stands for the Women’s World Cup final last summer in Vancouver.
What happens after high school is in the air, but soccer will still play a part in Perkins’ life.
“I’m really competitive. It’s a nice outlet I guess,” she said. “I like the team sport aspect. It’s always been a part of my life.”