A Sarnia girl has earned a spot on Ontario’s U14 soccer team.
Alexis Tsaprailis, 13, was named to the roster following 11 different tryouts this past winter.
The Cathcart Boulevard School student is one of the youngest players on the 22-member elite squad, and the only one chosen from a community west of Brampton.
Playing on a provincial team puts Alexis on stage for national team and university scouts, say her parents, Jim and Pauline
The centre midfielder plays for the Sarnia FC-affiliated Whitecaps London Soccer Club in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).
It’s the first girls’ league she’s played in since the age of five.
Tsaprailis switched from girls’ to boys’ teams when she was six and spent every season after playing in boys’ leagues. Her father, who has coached many of her teams, said that’s not uncommon for elite girls.
“She was a better fit to play with the boys, technically, tactically, athletic wise, strength wise. That was more challenging and obviously a better fit for her,” he said.
“It’s much more physical, the play is faster,” Alexis added.
The family’s schedule revolves around soccer. Alexis practices five nights a week, three of them in London. Homework is done on the road, and she’s maintaining her marks. That’s always been a priority, Jim Tsaprailis said.
“Right now we’re having fun. She’s enjoying it, the family’s enjoying it. She’s out with good kids, she’s making friends, she’s competing, she’s staying healthy.”
Alexis takes the commutes in stride, and likens the commitment to that of her role model, Jessie Fleming, and her journey to a UCLA scholarship and a spot on Canada’s national team.
“She use to travel to Toronto – two hours there, two hours back – just for training,” she said. “She’s always been that person that I strive to be.”
Alexis is a multi-sport athlete who plays basketball and competes in track and field and hopes to represent Canada on the field one day.
Jim Tsaprailis said a Division One university has already been in touch, but added that’s not a priority right now.
Alexis’ parents both played soccer at the university level, and her two younger siblings, Ionna and Georgios, also play.
Soccer is on TV every Saturday and the basement has been renovated for indoor training and drills.
“There’s usually a soccer ball on every floor of the house,” Pauline Tsaprailis said with a laugh.