NEW BRITAIN - Kalyssa Muniz is about to get an experience few, especially a high school sophomore, will ever receive.
Starting Thursday, the New Britain native and Bristol resident will get the chance to play for club and country at one of the highest levels of competition for her age group. Muniz will be competing at the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Qualifiers in Nicaragua as a member of the Puerto Rican Women’s U17 National Team.
The tournament runs Thursday to April 29 and features the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Haiti and Bermuda.
“It’s an honor,” Muniz said. “I always wanted to play internationally. It’s been a lot of hard work that I put in every single day.”
And it was a combination of that hard work and her natural skill set that made Muniz a candidate to make the U17 team, which carries about 21 players. What made it more competitive is only about three or four players from the continental United States make the team, with the others come directly from Puerto Rico.
But first, Muniz, who turned 16 two weeks ago, had to make the roster.
It was her Olympic Development Program coach Todd D’Alessandro, also the head coach for the girls team at the Ethel Walker School, who initially recommended Muniz try out. So in January, she headed to Puerto Rico for tryouts in front of Women’s National Team manager Shek Borkowski and U17 manager Zary Rivera.
“I wasn’t really that nervous,” Muniz said. “I was excited. It was right after the hurricane had hit Puerto Rico and they were trying to rebuild the soccer community. The players who were there welcomed me and the atmosphere was really good. It’s obviously a high quality difference between high school and the Puerto Rican team and the work rate was a bit higher. The players are so precise, technically and physically, but I thought it was great.”
It was a little less than three months later, when on April 2 Muniz learned she had made the team for the upcoming CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Qualifiers and the idea of playing internationally was becoming a reality. First up would be a week of training and then the tournament.
“I’m excited to see everyone play from different cultures,” Muniz said. “Right now, it’s about trying to win games and bond with my teammates.”
And her parents are just as ecstatic.
“We couldn’t be happier,” her father Aneudi said. “This shows she can play at a high level. Hopefully she gives it 110 percent, which her mother and I know she will. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Muniz’s opportunity first developed during her youth soccer days. She began playing when she was around 3 years old after her mother, Ivelia, signed her up to play soccer in New Britain’s rec league. Muniz then moved on to Farmington Soccer Academy at 8.
It was in between the two stages, when she was around 6, that Muniz’s potential was first noticed. Now, she’s a standout for Todd Sadler at Northwest Catholic and Mick Darsey at FSA in the offseason.
“I felt like I was pretty good at [soccer back then],” Muniz said. “I didn’t really expect this to happen. I just put in a lot of hard work to keep getting better.”
Muniz knows she’s had a lot of support along the way to help her reach this point.
“I just wanted to say thank you to Northwest Catholic, FSA, Parisi Speed School, my friends and my family, especially my parents,” Muniz said. “It takes a lot of commitment, time and money and I’m just thankful for that.”
The best part is she’s only going to get better, and that continues this Thursday.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org