MONMOUTH JUNCTION, NJ - World Cup fever has hit South Brunswick High School, but the country the school, staff and coaches are all excited about may come as a surprise. Jamaica's World Cup run is on the hearts and minds of many folks because South Brunswick High School alumnus Sydney Schneider will be tending goal for the second time in the 2019 Women's World Cup for the Jamaican national team on Friday.
Schneider is a 2017 graduate of SBHS and a Dayton native, but since her grandparents are Jamaican and her mother was born in the Caribbean country, the 19-year-old is eligible to play for Jamaica. While the Jamaican team lost their opening game in the group phase of the tournament to Brazil 3-0, Schneider turned heads with her play, especially her save on a penalty kick by Brazilian powerhouse Andressa in the 38th minute of the game. The teen received tweets of support from Jamaican sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt and former USA women's soccer goaltender Hope Solo after Sunday's game.
It was just two years ago Schneider was backstopping the Vikings in net as a four year varsity player. Spotswood resident and South Brunswick High School teacher Bill Smith delivered the Viking coaches a little gift last week before the start of the 2019 Women's World Cup; Jamaican soccer tees with Schneider's name and number on the back. Smith, who is also the president of the Spotswood Board of Education, is on the coaching staff for the Vikings girls soccer program.
"I am the junior varsity coach and Syd was always far too good a player to play on the JV field," Smith explained. "You could tell she would be a varsity player from the moment she stepped on the field. That said, she was part of our program for four years and a captain her senior year so I would work with her in drills with the other players over the summer and during the start of practices. Her main coaches were Beth Barrio, the head varsity coach, and Collin Boucher, the assistant varsity/goalkeeper coach for the first three of Syd's years and then Alyson Slomko came on as the team goalkeeping coach for the last year Syd was here."
"Syd is an awesome goalie," Smith said when asked to describe Schneider as a player. "Probably the best we had or will ever have. That is saying a lot from a program that has had goalkeepers playing in division one and two soccer programs for nearly my entire 13 years with the program. She really has a great mindset for the position. She is fun and lighthearted, but also mentally strong and a fierce competitor. She knows how to stay focused and to forget the last mistake she made and move on. It is a vital skill for a goalkeeper to have because if you dwell on your last mistake it can completely take you out of a game mentally. She was also a jokester at practice and would often make the girls and staff laugh at something she said or did."
Smith, the rest of the coaching staff and the entire school is excited about Jamaica's upcoming game on Friday against Italy.
"All of the coaching staff brought t-shirts that had Jamaican flags on the front and Sydney's name and number on the back," Smith said. "We were so excited to see her playing. We were all texting back and forth during Sunday's game and Coach Beth Barrio, Syd's coach on varsity, was sending her well-wishes from the coaches and photos of us in our shirts. We can't wait for Friday!!!"
Schneider and the Jamaican team, which also features Rutgers University senior Chantelle Swaby, take the field at noon EST for their second World Cup game. Jamaica is the first Caribbean country to qualify for the women's World Cup. The team is in Group C along with Brazil, Italy and Australia. Italy defeated Australia 2-1 on Sunday.
"It has been a surreal experience for the coaching staff to see one of our players starting at a World Cup," Smith added. "Our school also produced Mohammed Sanu of the Atlanta Falcons and when he played in the Super Bowl everyone was so excited, but for the soccer coaches and players of both the boys and Ggirls teams, we know that what Syd is doing and the stage she is playing on is so much bigger than a Super Bowl."
"She is a part of history," Smith continued. "The 19-year-old goalie from Dayton, NJ with Jamacain grandparents is part of the first-ever Caribbean nation to be represented in the Women's World Cup."
"It has also been mind-blowing to see her getting tweets and shoutouts from Usain Bolt, the great Jamaican Olympic champ, as well as from former USA goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was the best in the world during her playing days, and Karina LeBlanc, the highly accomplished former Canadian goalkeeper," Smith said. "We are hoping she keeps playing well and earns herself the opportunity to play in Europe for one for the women's teams there or maybe even our own SkyBlue FC of the NWSL."
Jamaica's game with Italy is one of three on tap for Friday's 2019 Women's World Cup schedule. Japan takes on Scotland while England plays Argentina. Viewers can tune in at noon on Fox to watch Schneider and Jamaica in their matchup with Italy.