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West Virginia, Canada U-20s share strong connection

Kadeisha Buchanan, 18, is already a fixture with Canada's senior team. She'll play in the U-20 WWC, which starts Tuesday. (Photo Copyright Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

Kadeisha Buchanan, 18, is already a fixture with Canada’s senior team. She’ll play in the U-20 WWC, which starts Tuesday. (Photo Copyright Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

The path to the future of the Canadian women’s soccer team may well run through Morgantown, W. Va.

Although West Virginia University has long been a prime destination for some of Canada’s best young soccer talent, the addition of center back Kadeisha Buchanan has put the Mountaineers’ Canadian connection in the forefront. This week, Buchanan and two other Mountaineers, Ashley Lawrence and Amandine Pierre-Louis, will suit up for Canada in the U-20 Women’s World Cup, which begins on Tuesday.

Over the years, West Virginia head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has developed a strong relationship with the Canadian Soccer Association.

“Working hand-in-hand and developing these players, that’s just been something that’s worked out,” Izzo-Brown said of the school’s relationship with the federation. “Having the respect of the Canadian Soccer Association and the coaches there, knowing that when they send their kids to West Virginia, they’re going to get developed,” Izzo-Brown commented on the relationship.

Buchanan has already been capped by the senior team over 20 times, quickly establishing herself as one of the best young talents in the Canadian youth system. Back in May, Buchanan scored Canada’s only goal in a match against the U.S. and was assigned the task of keeping U.S. forward Abby Wambach at bay. Buchanan’s performance earned the praise of Canadian head coach John Herdman, who said that “she’s got the chance to be the best in the world at her position.”

Izzo-Brown echoed those sentiments when asked about the Buchanan’s potential.

“There’s no limit in what Kadeisha can do,” she said. “She’s a student of the game. She has a deep passion this is something that she works extremely hard on and this is a kid that’s just a soccer junkie. She wants to watch film, she wants to get better and there’s never going to be a limit on what she can do because her passion and commitment to excellence.”

[MORE: Stars of tomorrow set to shine at U-20 Women’s World Cup]

Buchanan has only been at West Virginia for a year but she’s already earned an impressive list of accolades including Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Big 12 Defender of the Year and All-Big 12 first team honors. Recently, the 18-year-old was named to All White Kit’s preseason All-American team. She was also the only Mountaineer to play every minute last season.

Lawrence, a midfielder, has also racked up a considerable number of awards as well. The sophomore was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team and, like Buchanan, she also earned All-Big 12 first team honors last season.

Lawrence has also shown a penchant for scoring big-time goals, as she netted the game winner for West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament title game. Canada may very well need a strike from Lawrence to advance past the quarterfinals at the U-20 World Cup, as the team could face either the United States or Germany, two of the tournament favorites.

Izzo-Brown talked a bit about the what Lawrence brings to the field for the Mountaineers: “She’s just a kid that is someone that just impacts the game at such a high level in midfield on both sides of the ball. She’s running from 18 to 18 without even getting tired. So I think as much as Kadeisha impacts the backline, Ashley is doing the same thing for us at midfield in an attacking role but also in a defensive role.”

The third current West Virginia player on Canada’s U-20 roster is Pierre-Louis, a forward. Pierre-Louis will be a redshirt freshman this fall as she was forced to redshirt a season ago. The speedster will no doubt be a welcome addition to the Mountaineer offense.

“She’s a kid that will beat you with her speed but she’ll also beat you with her technical ability,” Izzo-Brown said. “She has great composure…she is a natural goalscorer and just loves to run at you but will also sees the game tactically to be able to you know find ways to create goals but also finish goals.”

After featuring so many Canadians over the years, opposing coaches rib the Mountaineer head coach about her frequent signings of players from north of the border.

“I’ve definitely been accused of being Canadian which kind of cracks me up a little bit,” she said. “And then obviously I’ve heard the pipeline, that there’s a pipeline. I think it goes underground, not overground,” Izzo-Brown joked.

Underground or overground, West Virginia’s Canadian pipeline shows no signs of slowing. A fourth member of the Canadian U-20 World Cup team, goalkeeper Rylee Foster, is verbally committed to WVU for the class of 2016.

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