Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeSportsWomen's soccer player Hilary Jaen joins professional team for World Cup

Women’s soccer player Hilary Jaen joins professional team for World Cup

Hilary Jaen was one of the standout stars in the Lady Bobcats 2023 fall season. Not only was her season with the Bobcats lucrative, but Jaen also saw multiple international call-ups to the Panama senior squad in numerous competitions including the World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Jaen grew up in Chepo, a small town in Panama, where her soccer journey began when she was merely six years old, after her cousins invited her to play one day. Since then, Jaen realized that soccer was what she wanted to do every day, and she began to pursue her dreams. Although all Jaen wanted to do was play soccer, it wasn’t an easy feat to accomplish.

“When I was little, I was playing with boys until I was 12 because there was not a women’s team to join,” said Jaen.

Soccer in Panama is still growing and developing, so it is nowhere near as big or has the same amount of funding that soccer does in America. This makes it extremely hard for players like Jaen to even try and make their dreams a reality when playing in their home countries.

Although improvement is being witnessed in Panama regarding soccer, Jaen thought it would be best to leave her home country and pursue an opportunity in America. Leaving Panama has allowed Jaen to continue her academic studies as well as still play soccer to a high standard. One main difference between the two countries is that players usually have to decide between soccer and academics, as there isn’t enough support for players such as Jaen to pursue both careers back in Panama.

Jaen had a successful fall 2023 campaign along with the rest of her squad, scoring 16 goals in all competitions with ten assist contributions. Two of those goals came during the National Tournament semi-final game against instate rivals, Holmes, as well as against Johnson County Cavaliers in the National Tournament final. Jaen scored the third and final goal for Jones in the Championship game which ultimately secured the National Tournament title. Jaen was further recognised for her season as she was awarded the Most Valuable Offensive Player during the tournament. She was also named among the All-American Team, the All-East Region Team and the All-MACCC Second Team.

Her accomplishments did not only begin at Jones. Jaen was also called up to Panama’s senior national team for the women’s World Cup, an achievement that many soccer athletes dream of yet only a few ever get to experience. Jaen was part of the squad that faced France, Jamaica and Brazil in the group stages. This was Panama’s World Cup debut against teams that were well experienced with the pressures that the competition brought with it.

“Representing my nation is an honor. It’s a dream that a lot of girls have,” said Jaen. “Qualifying for the World Cup was our dream and we made it possible. We had the best experience of our life; we cried in our first game singing the national anthem.”

Jaen’s future ambitions are to play soccer professionally after she graduates in two years as well as making sure the Panama squad returns to the World Cup stage in three years. Jaen graduates from Jones at the end of the spring 2024 semester and will move on to play for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, a Division 1 program. While there, Jaen hopes to return to the National Tournament as she did with Jones.

“It has been a pleasure to play with a teammate like Hilary. I am thankful to have her as a teammate and friend, and I can’t wait to support her as she gets into her next chapter,” said team captain Lauren Carothers.

Jaen is an extremely talented soccer player with hopes and ambitions to make her dreams of playing soccer all day, every day, a reality. As she continues her soccer career, only more success can be expected of Jaen.

“Hilary’s future is bright; she is very passionate about the game of soccer. She is extremely driven and purposeful with everything she does on and off the field,” said Carothers. “Her winning mentality will most definitely take her far and allow her to constantly reach new heights in her soccer career.”

Boo Mills

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