Representing one’s country at the international level is special and career defining for college and professional athletes because the support they receive from their fellow countrymen in their journey to bring pride to their nation is outstanding. Doing so on home soil is, without a doubt, even more special. Rising junior Emma Fletcher of the Cal women’s soccer team is now very familiar with these experiences, as she represented host Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games and helped her side secure fourth place.
The Canadians displayed a dominant performance throughout most of their bronze-medal match against Mexico on Friday in terms of possession, shots taken and corner kicks, but their inability to clinically capitalize on goal-scoring opportunities proved to be far more decisive.
Mexico maintained its composure in spite of the match being dictated largely by Canada, and its resilience eventually paid off in the 29th minute, when Mexican forward Monica Ocampo found the back of the net. The Canadians were unable to answer back with a goal heading into the halftime break. Instead, they found themselves down, 2-0, because of a goal by Mexican midfielder Stephany Mayor in the 37th minute.
Just when all seemed lost, Canadian forward Jessie Fleming got her side on the scoreboard with a goal in the 88th minute. Unfortunately for the Canadian fans, their team couldn’t fully mount a comeback in stoppage time, as it had to settle for nothing more than its lone consolation goal near the end of the game.
Fletcher played 68 minutes of her nation’s bout against Mexico, and the Canadian played a relatively clean game during her time on the pitch, where she was the only midfielder on her team who did not commit a foul in an encounter that saw the Canadians record as many fouls as the Mexicans with 14.
Despite not playing a full 90 minutes against Mexico and being unable to help Canada win back-to-back gold medals, Fletcher will have the opportunity to come back home knowing that she helped her country reach its fifth consecutive semifinal. She’ll also be able to go home with pride because she notched a goal in her side’s 5-2 rout against Ecuador in the group stage.
The rising junior, who joined Cal in January after two impressive seasons with Louisiana State University, has yet to play a regular-season game with the Bears, but her solid contributions to Canada at the Pan American Games will likely catch Cal women’s soccer head coach Neil McGuire’s eye. If Fletcher continues to hone her craft and improve this summer, it will only be a matter of time until she debuts next season. More importantly, if her form remains solid and consistent, it will be hard for McGuire not to select her as a regular in his starting 11, where she would have a better opportunity to mirror the 12 assists that set a freshman record during her time at LSU in 2013.
Fletcher’s success at Cal may prove to be crucial in determining whether she will continue to earn the opportunity to represent Canada at international tournaments. In the meantime, she will be able to fondly look back on her experience with her country this summer at the Pan American Games.