June 9, 2014
Gabriela Iribarne, a senior midfielder on the Owls' soccer team, has been called to train with Argentina's Women's National Team for three weeks beginning June 9 in Buenos Aires. The South American nation that is extremely passionate about its futbol, is selecting a team that will attempt to qualify for the Women's World Cup to be held in Canada in the summer of 2015.
Iribarne, who holds dual citizenship for both the United States and Argentina, and has been involved with Argentina's national age-group programs the last few years. In the spring of 2012 she played on the Argentinean national Under-20 team that qualified for that age-group's women's world cup held in Japan. In the South American qualifying round for the U-20 world cup, Iribarne scored the game-tying goal in the 73rd minute against Paraguay that forced a 2-2 deadlock and helped Argentina secure a top spot in the three-week long pool play format.
That was more than two years ago. By 2014 she had graduated from the various age-group levels of competition. The call this time was from the national team, nicknamed Las Albicelestes, if you're one of that nation's soccer-crazed fans. It is a sizable step-up from making a country's age-group team compared to making its national team. Now older and wiser, the dramatic increase in difficulty has not been lost on the senior from Will Rice College.
"I have moved up with a chance to make the full women's team," Iribarne said. "Needless to say, the competition is tougher since the pool of players is much larger. I feel honored to be given the opportunity to be attending training camp."
Training camp is scheduled to last three weeks at the national team fields in Buenos Aires. Iribarne might have an edge in that she is able to draw on both her previous international competitions, as well as her experience dealing with the extremely-tough Rice training camps under the direction of Owl head coach Nicky Adams.
"The intensity is similar (between Rice soccer and the Argentinean teams)," Iribarne said. "Everyone is very competitive and passionate about the sport, though the styles of play are different. While both teams focus on possession, Rice is more direct with a purpose. Argentina relies more on flares from individual players. The competition and intensity though are both very high."
Iribarne is versatile enough to thrive in either style. As a junior on the Owls last season she tied for third on the team with five goals, and scored the game-winning goal in a Conference USA league game at Southern Miss. Training with Las Albicelestes this summer (or winter if you're in Buenos Aires) can help the Owls this fall.
"Everyone on the (Rice) team is excited about this 2014 season," Iribarne said. "We have a lot of new players coming in, and are excited to integrate them with a great group of returning players. We are definitely looking to take back the C-USA Championship and ultimately qualify for the NCAAs playing beautiful soccer!"