SOCCER: Panorama Ridge player to lace up for university in Chicago

NEWTON — This summer, Simmrin Dhaliwal could be looking at her future when she attends the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final at BC Place.

The Grade 12 Panorama Ridge Secondary student spent March of 2014 in Costa Rica with the Under-17 national soccer team as the starting right back at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Now, Dhaliwal has made the decision to play National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 soccer with Northwestern University after signing her letter of intent on Wednesday (Feb. 4).

However, the Whitecaps Girls Elite squad member had plenty of options of where she wanted to attend post-secondary school. Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Memphis, the University of Nebraska, Georgetown, Iowa, Kentucky and Oregon State were a few of the schools interested in signing Dhaliwal.

Northwestern’s campus, located 22.5 kilometres north of Chicago, and her new coaches were some of the reasons why she chose to be a Wildcat.

"The campus is just perfect, not super big but not too small either," Dhaliwal said. "(They had) such a nice coaching staff. They were really nice to me and really nice to their players. They had all of the right intentions for all of their players. I could see myself here for four years and really developing not just as a soccer player, but as a person too."

She committed to Northwestern the day after she came home from her visit last January. When she spoke to her coaches at Northwestern, they gave her confidence that if she impressed them, she could win a starting spot as a freshman.

Dhaliwal will be bringing versatility to the Big Ten Conference, as she can play right back and right midfield, but was scouted as a midfielder for Northwestern.

She first made the switch from midfield to fullback when the national team needed her toplay there. At first, she wasn’t pleased with the news, but has become accustomed to being part of the back line.

"I love it now.Fullbacks in the game now are starting to attack a lot more," said Dhaliwal. "It’s really easy for me to transition from playing right attacking midfield to right back. You just have to be a little more aware of what’s around you in the middle."

Jesse Symons, the Whitecaps Girls Elite coach, was not surprised Dhaliwal was able to succeed at right back, even if the move forced her out of her comfort zone.

Dhaliwal’s anticipation is second to none, the coach said, allowing her to be in the right place at the right time and make the correct decisions on the pitch.

"You always hear about the top players around the world in different sports that they see the game at a bit of a slower speed. I think that’s what (Dhaliwal) sees. She just sees the game so much faster than most players, which sort of puts her above the rest," added Symons.

He said her technical skills — dribbling, passing and vision — would also help her succeed in one of the toughest NCAA conferences.

On top of that, Dhaliwal has developed a leadership role on the team and represents her community, club and country very well, Symons noted.

"She’s definitely someone young players should look up to and get to know as she gets to progress through the national team.

"She’s really started to encourage the younger players. I think the big one is a girl in Grade 9, Emma Regan, who also plays right back for Canada. You just see that (Dhaliwal) wants to see her develop and progress and get better as well. It’s just how she operates. It’s quite special how she’s willing to put herself aside sometimes to really support her teammates," he said.

In 2014 she was named as the Vancouver Whitecaps Most Promising Girls Elite Player and was nominated for Canada Women’s U-17 Player of the Year. One of Dhaliwal’s goals is to play for the women’s senior team, and in July will be in the stands at BC Place for World Cup matches, to see the standard to which she will be holding herself.

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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