Young Washington relishing Senior Reggae Girlz opportunity, credits "Bunny" Shaw for mentorship

By Sherdon Cowan May 25, 2023
Young Reggae Girlz striker Solai Washington in action against Sheffield United during a recent camp in England. Young Reggae Girlz striker Solai Washington in action against Sheffield United during a recent camp in England. Will Chesire

While breaking into the final squad for the FIFA Women's World Cup remains her main ambition, young striker Solai Washington is simply happy for the opportunity to learn from the more experienced members of the senior Reggae Girlz team.

At 17 years old, Washington earned her senior Reggae Girlz debut at the Cup of Nations tournament in Australia earlier this year, not merely for the sake of a trial but because she possesses great ability and gives high-quality effort — both on and off the ball — that bely her age and inexperience.

Simply put, Washington, the sister of Jamaica's accomplished midfielder Giselle, demonstrated to Head Coach Lorne Donaldson and his assistants Xavier Gilbert and Ak Lakhani, that she was ready for a step up from youth football and they duly obliged.

Since the Cup of Nations outing in Australia, where she rubbed shoulders with some of the women's game top players from the host nation, as well as Spain and the Czech Republic, Washington has been a staple at Reggae Girlz camps, the last of which was in England where they did battle against Sheffield United.

The US-born player, who like her sister, earns the Jamaican colours through her mother, is relishing time in the senior environment and even credits team captain and Manchester City striker Khadija "Bunny" Shaw for her guidance along the way.

"It has been a great experience so far; being the youngest member of both the Australia and England camps was an amazing honour as well as a great learning experience for me," said Washington.

"I used these camps to grow and learn from both the coaches and my older and more experienced teammates. In fact, Bunny has acted as a great mentor to me, sharing advice as well as her own experience representing Jamaica and that has helped with my transition as a young player coming into a professional international environment," she added.

Playing at the highest level has also lifted her confidence to the point where Washington is now motivated to become a potent performer in the Reggae Girlz setup, as her appetite for success is clear for all to see.

She recently assisted Chamblee High School to a State Championship, becoming the first DeKalb County School District girls football team to achieve the feat.

Washington was also named Georgia High School Soccer Player of the Year for her 42 goals complemented by nine assists. She was also instrumental in guiding her Concorde Fire team to the ECNL Under-19 National Championship last year.

"Being coached by Lorne Donaldson has been amazing. He has helped improve my game through individual and team instruction and has been nothing but encouraging," Washington shared.

"I have grown so much and I know as I continue my time with the Jamaican national team and develop more chemistry with my teammates, my confidence will continue to grow.

"I have gotten more comfortable with the team and I think that is portrayed both on an off the field. Since the camps, I have been training and developing to best prepare myself for anything in the future, doing my part to put my best foot forward for the Reggae Girlz," she continued.

With Donaldson expected to name 23-player squad for the World Cup next month, Washington is optimistic that she will make the cut for the July 20 to August 20 showpiece in Australia and New Zealand.

"Yeah, I do hope to make it but I leave it up to the coaches to determine my chances," Washington, who has committed to continuing her career at Duke University, declared.

For now, the tall but nippy player is focused on improving her craft should she be called upon.

The Girlz are expected to contest a two-match send off series on home soul against an opponent to be named next month.

"All I can do is give my best effort. So moving forward I am looking to continue growing as a player. Mentally, I am preparing by studying game film with my coaches and looking for areas to improve strategically so I can adjust to playing at an international level," Washington revealed.

"Physically, I am continuing to strengthen my body through weightlifting, cardio training and improving my technical abilities," she ended.

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