Posted On May 1, 2013 by PUSC
Placer United ’94 alumni and Idaho State sophomore goalkeeper Maria Dela Cruz has been selected to join the Philippine Senior Women’s National Team and will participate in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2014 Qualifiers May 21-26, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Dela Cruz, who holds dual citizenship in both the United States and the Philippines, was born in Cagayan de Oro City and moved to the U.S. when she was four years old. Dela Cruz grew up in Roseville, California, and attended Granite Bay High School before making the decision to attend Idaho State.
Maria began her Placer United career at Under 10 with Coach Chris Alcala and also played for Coach Jason Gantt. Coach Gene Duchateau (assisted by Coach Todd Decarlo) then took over the ’94s for a couple of seasons. Coach Ron Benjamin then took the team for the final two years.
“It didn’t take me long to know that I had an awesome athlete (GK) in Maria” said Coach Gene. “She was small but very athletic, agile with quick reactions, making her a very good shot blocker. She had these attributes along with a great attitude, good hands and ability to come out and rise above players much bigger than her with balls knocked into the box and she always found a way to come down holding the ball. Congratulations and we wish Maria the best of luck!”
When the Philippine National Team was looking for another goalkeeper, Dela Cruz’s club coach helped put her on the recruiters’ radar. Placer United Girls Director of Coaching, Ron Benjamin said he was contacted a few weeks ago by a representative from the team. “Maria immediately came to mind,” said Benjamin. “She was a fantastic student/athlete for our soccer club and we are so proud of the fact that she will be competing at this level and possibly play in the Women’s World Cup.”
After seeing her statistics, the Philippine National Team invited Dela Cruz to join the team and has called her to report to training camp in Manila on May 6.
Dela Cruz will train with her Philippine teammates in Manila from May 6-18 and will then travel to Bangladesh for the qualifying matches May 21-26. The Philippines is in the B Group and will face Thailand, Iran and Bangladesh in round robin play.
If the Philippine team wins its group, it will automatically qualify for the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The top five seeded teams from the Women’s Asian Cup will have the opportunity to play in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“It is with a sense of pride to play for my country and it means a lot that my coaches thought I was good enough to play at that level,” Dela Cruz said. “It is an honor to even be looked at. I didn’t even think I would play college soccer, so to be playing for a chance to play in the World Cup is unreal.”
Dela Cruz is currently working to finish her finals early and trying to train for the hot and humid conditions that await her in Manila.
“It is very tropical over there and my [National] coach recommended that I jog in the sauna here to help prepare myself for the conditions over there,” Dela Cruz said.
Dela Cruz’s mother is joining her on the trip to Manila and following the tournament in Bangladesh, the mother-daughter duo will visit family in Cagayan de Oro.
While Dela Cruz is ISU Head Coach Allison Gibson‘s first Idaho State player to be selected to play for a National team, it is not her first athlete to play at the national level. Gibson also coached US Women’s National Team player and Olympic Gold medalist Alex Morgan.
“To have this type of exposure is tremendous,” Gibson said. “I am so proud and happy for Maria. She is one of the hardest working, most positive and energetic players I have coached. When she lost the starting position to Sheridan last season it only caused her to work and train harder. It is so great to have her hard work rewarded like this.”
Visit www.the-afc.com for more tournament information as well as schedules and results.