Lauren Schmidt, left, of San Martin, works on a team drill during a conditioning class with her Mountain View/Los Altos club at Curtis Field in Santa Clara last week.
music in the park san jose

Lauren Schmidt has developed a more personal connection to
Trinidad and Tobago since May when the St. Francis High School star
tried out and was asked to play for the host country in the
upcoming FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup.

Most Americans know little about Trinidad and Tobago or have even heard of the twin-island republic outside of their elementary-school geography bee and Jimmy Buffett concerts.

The country with an unusual name and demonym — there are two: Trinidadian and Tobagonian — is dwarfed by neighboring countries in the Caribbean Sea, a dot surrounded by dots on a globe.

To 17-year-old Lauren Schmidt of San Martin, it is a second home. She and her family visit Trinidad almost every year, vacationing amid sugar-white beaches and rolling tropical hills in Maraval, the hometown of Schmidt’s mother, Leslie.

The setting is how you imagine it.

“It’s really hot, and it’s really humid,” Schmidt said. “And they really love to party down there.”

Schmidt has developed a more personal connection to Trinidad and Tobago since May when the St. Francis High School star tried out and was asked to play for the host country in the upcoming FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup.

The past few months have been like a dream she and her family never envisioned. In June, Schmidt rendezvoused with her Trinidad and Tobago squad in Brazil for a 10-day training session complete with two matches against the host Seleçao.

“It was amazing, just incredibly good soccer,” said Schmidt, who earned all-county honors as a junior defender last winter while guiding St. Francis to a second Central Coast Section championship in three years. “I can’t really describe the level of competition to anything I’ve seen before.

“We tied (Brazil) 1-1 in the first game, but then they beat us like 7-1 in the next one.”

Leslie said her daughter’s selection to the Trinidad and Tobago national team “completed the circle of life.” Leslie was 16 1/2-years-old when she left her home country to study in Canada and later the U.S. She met Richard Schmidt there, and the two settled in Morgan Hill after completing their residency training as physicians. Most of Leslie’s family still lives in Trinidad.

“I always planned to come back, but then I met my husband and things went a different way,” she said. “It’s wonderful seeing Lauren (pronounced Low-ren) immersing herself in the Trinidad culture with girls her own age. It feels so good to have her appreciate the place that I came from.”

Schmidt grew up playing Orchard Valley Youth League soccer under her father and coaches Alex Lowe, Tony Vasquez and Kathy Morgan. Her roots helped her land a tryout for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation; her uncle, Everard Carter, knows someone who knows a TTFF U17 assistant coach — it’s a small island. Because her mother was born in Trinidad, Schmidt was eligible to play for its team. She was recruited by TTFF’s legendary Norwegian coach Even Pellerud to tryout for the brand-new program in May. Three days into her audition, Schmidt was asked to train in Trinidad for the entire summer.

“I was in a daze when I found out. I still am,” she said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt. My friends and family were amazed I made the team. I just feel so lucky being a part of something this special.”

Schmidt, whose tenacity and slender 5-foot-7 frame allowed her to head in most of her 10 goals scored last winter, has moved from her left-back position to center back where she will contribute more as a defender. The transition is tough, Schmidt said, but she has plenty of time to adjust. Trinidad and Tobago has scheduled five exhibitions before the World Cup — two at Venezuela and three in Miami against Germany, Ireland and South Korea.

“Every game is going to be extremely competitive,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to be playing against the best in the world day in and day out, so we have to give it our best.”

That Trinidad and Tobago is hosting the 16-team tournament adds to the intensity, not to mention TTFF’s schedule. Schmidt’s squad will open against South American stalwart Chile on Sept. 5 and then face Nigeria, another soccer power, on Sept. 8 and reigning U17 champion North Korea on Sept. 12. The top two placers in the four groups advance to the knockout rounds.

This will be no vacation.

“There’s definitely some pressure on us to do well, but it’s more of excitement,” Schmidt said. “We can’t wait to get out there and play together. The girls on my team get along really well, and we know the Trinidadian fans are going to give us a lot of support. They love soccer.”

Schmidt’s family will help lead the cheers at each game.

“This stills feels like an impossibility for us,” Leslie said. “It’s like some beautiful dream. You don’t want to wake up.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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