LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Louisville women’s soccer team will open its 2012 season without two of its top players as junior forward Christine Exeter and junior defender Rachel Melhado will compete for the Canadian National Team at the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.
Representing their home nation, both Exeter (Pickering, Ont./Pickering HS) and Melhado (Brampton, Ont./Turner Fenton HS) depart with Team Canada on Wednesday for the event, which is scheduled for Aug. 19 to Sept. 8 in five cities across Japan. Canada, one of 16 nations at the event, will open group play on Aug. 20 against Argentina. That will be followed by an Aug. 23 match against Norway before closing group play on Aug. 27 against North Korea.
Following group play, the top two teams from each of the four groups advanced to tournament portion of the event. Quarterfinal matches are set for Aug. 30-31, while semifinal matches are scheduled for Sept. 4. The gold medal and bronze medal matches are set for Sept. 8. Exeter and Melhado will return to the Cardinals immediately following Canada’s final match at the World Cup.
“We are all absolutely thrilled for Christine and Rachel as they pursue their dreams of winning a youth world championship,” said Louisville head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes. “Although we will miss their presence in games and training, we understand the privilege that comes with playing for your country. We know they will represent both the University of Louisville and Canada exceptionally well.”
Exeter, the 2011 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous preseason All-BIG EAST selection in 2012, led the Cardinals with 14 goals and three assists while starting 23 of 24 games as a sophomore. A 2011 NSCAA All-America honoree, Exeter connected for five game-winning goals, including the only goal of the match in the Cardinals' win at Cincinnati to clinch the program’s first ever BIG EAST National Division title.
"It has always been a dream of mine to play for my country,” said Exeter. “To be able to wear my country’s crest on my chest means the world to me, and I am proud to be a Canadian."
Melhado started all 24 games on the Cardinals' backline in 2011 and was a key contributor in the team's nine shutout wins last season. She was a key member of the Cardinals’ defensive effort in back-to-back shutout wins against Dayton and No. 5 Memphis in the first two rounds of the 2011 NCAA Championship. Overall, Melhado has started and played in 41 career games at U of L.
“Ever since I was a little girl, it has always been a dream of mine to play for my country and wear the Canadian crest on my chest and now that that moment has finally arrived, it’s like a dream come true for me,” said Melhado. “I am more than honored to be playing for my country in this U-20 World Cup and so excited to represent Canada and make all of our supporters proud."
In preparation for the World Cup, Exeter and Melhado participated in a summer camp from July 3-22 in Canada, Italy and Switzerland. After six days in Montreal, Canada, the team traveled to Verbania, Italy to continue training for nine days. While there, Canada earned a 3-0 win over Italy in an international friendly match. The team then spent four days in Nottwil, Switzerland in preparation for a friendly against Switzerland, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Louisville will open its preseason schedule with a pair of exhibition games this weekend at Cardinal Park. The Cardinals will host Ohio State on Friday at 6 p.m., ET before closing the weekend on Sunday at 1 p.m., against Wright State.