There’s only one first time but Claire Hyatt would be glad to experience that championship feeling once again.
The Muskie girls’ soccer team member will sport a different jersey next week as she and the rest of the Thunder Bay Chill U18 team try to defend their U17 division title from a year ago at the Schwan’s USA Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament in Blaine, Mn.
“I was the captain, which was such a shock to me, but I appreciate it and led the team to victory,” recalled Hyatt, who leaves tomorrow in preparation for the July 15-19 tournament.
“They had been trying to win for eight years and we finally did it. . . .
“As defending champions, I hope we can do as good as last year,” she added.
Their success at last year’s tournament qualified the Chill for the Dallas International Girls Cup in April, where the squad won three out of five games.
“We didn’t place but I was proud of how well we did,” said Hyatt, who scored the game-winning goal in the NorWOSSA final against the Dryden Eagles in late May to send the Muskies to their first OFSAA appearance since 2009.
Hyatt, a centre defender in her second year with the Chill, is the lone Fort Frances import on the Thunder Bay squad.
“I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little hard to fit in,” she admitted.
“However, I have been playing soccer with them since I was 11 so we know each other very well,” she noted.
“After Dallas, though, the week I spent with them really brought us all together and now we’re one big happy family.”
Hyatt is somewhat averse to talking about her contributions to the Chill, preferring instead to focus on the team as a whole.
“I think I’m a big asset to the team but so is every other single player,” she stressed.
“We couldn’t win games and tournaments without everyone.
“I’m glad I’m on the team,” Hyatt added. “I get along really well with the girls.”
Hyatt characterizes this year’s edition of the Chill as a defensive-oriented squad.
“I would say that we are lacking in goal scoring,” she remarked.
“But we win games, usually only 1-0, but our defence does a great deal for the team, as well.”
Hyatt first played with the Chill at a tournament back in 2011 in Winnipeg, which motivated her to beat the odds and become a full-time member on a team that’s almost exclusively the domain of Thunder Bay players.
“I was ecstatic to make the team because they’ve had the same girls on the team since they were little, so they don’t usually have tryouts because it’s always the same girls on the team,” noted Hyatt.
She also credited Chill coach Dave Colistro as a major contributor to her development in the game.
“I’ve had him as a coach since I was 11 and, honestly, he has made me 10 times better a soccer player,” lauded Hyatt.
“Everything comes naturally to me now and I am just so comfortable in the game,” she added.
“Playing with the Chill was a great decision.”