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Toves, Wally to continue soccer journey

NMI National Team pool players Merrick Toves and Britany Wally will continue their soccer journey off-island as they joined their respective school’s program.

Toves, who plays goalie for the national team, will be with the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy—an association football academy based in Leeds, England. Wally, on the other hand, is heading to Texas to suit up for Navarro College.

“I am excited for this opportunity. I’ve been waiting for this since I graduated from high school a couple of years ago. Finally, it’s happening and I would like to thank everyone who helped me get the chance to play college soccer. Thank you to NMIFA, my coaches, and teammates,” said Wally.

Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan led a brief ceremony for Wally and Toves last Friday at the NMIFA office in Koblerville and is pleased with how NMI players are given opportunities to pursue higher education through football.

“We lost count already on how many NMI players have made it to the collegiate ranks and that’s very good news for us—a boost to our program. We are all proud of you and we wish you good luck as you continue to play football. Please come back and share what you will learn to our young players,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, Toves said he will use the opportunity to play off-island to continue improving his game and represent the NMI well. He commits to continue playing for the NMI national team and inspire young players to stay with the NMIFA program.

Toves’ school has two teams—the FC RIASA/Eccleshill United FC—which competes in the Northern Counties East Football League. NECL is a semi-professional English football league with two divisions (Premier Division and Division One), which stand at the ninth and 10th levels of the football pyramid respectively. The league has over 40 club members.

Navarro College, on the other hand, is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, which sanctions community, state, and junior college athletics throughout the U.S. The Bulldogs are the eight-time Region XIV champions, have made it to the NJCAA National Tournament nine times, including a runner-up finish in 2013, and was once ranked No. 1 (2013) in the entire competition. This is the same school that recruited Wally’s teammate on the NMI National Women’s Team, Guinevere Borja, who is now with Oklahoma Panhandle State University in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

NMI Women’s National Team head coach Luem Khen Koo, who joined Tan and other NMIFA officials in last weekend’s ceremony, believes the growing numbers of NMI players getting opportunities to compete in the collegiate ranks, will encourage more players—especially female ones—to try the sport. Wally is the seventh NMI female player to move up to collegiate ranks since 2016. In the men’s side, more than 10 NMI players have played in the collegiate league.

NMI Men’s National Team head coach and NMIFA technical director Michiteru Mita reminded Toves and Wally to be role models on and off the pitch and capitalize on every opportunity to play against high-level teams and learn from them.

Published by Saipan Tribune - Jul 28 2022


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