The list of local athletes competing at an elite level in their respective sport continues to grow.
The latest is Matt Paquette, who has been chosen to play for Canada’s national U15 soccer squad.
The 15-year-old St. Patrick’s High School student was selected following a series of training camps and tournaments earlier this year.
“I was relieved,” said Paquette, who took up the game nine years ago after watching his dad, Eric, play at the provincial level. “All the hard work paid off.”
The tall, slender striker began his minor soccer career with the Sarnia Fury and Sarnia FC, and has been commuting to North London several times a week the past three seasons to play L-1 soccer — the highest competitive level of minor soccer in the province.
“I love the game and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it as far as I can,” he said.
Paquette sprang to prominence last season when he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory by North London over a side from B.C. to capture the National U14 Club Championship on Prince Edward Island.
He has studied hard the past two seasons in hopes of acquiring an NCAA scholarship, and he also hopes to play for Canada’s national senior soccer side, or perhaps for a club overseas.
He credits George DaSilva, Trevor Gardner and Bobby Ferreira as major influences on the development of his game.
Paquette said he has become more proficient in getting open without the ball the past couple of seasons, and continues to work on the skill of beating defenders one-on-one.
Canada’s national U15 team will play International Friendlies in late summer and fall against as yet unnamed opponents.
Paquette hopes that the experience will propel him to the U16 squad that will begin qualifying next year for the U-17 World Cup in India in 2017.