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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ex-'Bow Kai will attend U.S. team camp

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Natasha Kai hopes to "represent myself and Hawai'i well" at the Feb. 6 to 19 camp.

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Kahuku's Natasha Kai has been invited to a training camp with the full U.S. Women's National Team, making her the first woman from Hawai'i to receive the prestigious offer.

The full national team is the elite women's team in U.S. soccer, with players such as Kristine Lilly, Shannon Boxx and Tiffeny Milbrett.

The training camp runs from Feb. 6 to 19 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The players attending are part of a pool that coaches can select from to field teams for events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and next year's Women's World Cup.

"I'm excited, kind of nervous," Kai said. "This is a big thing. This is what I've wanted ever since I was a kid, so I'm just glad I'm being given the opportunity. I hope I do good and represent myself and Hawai'i well."

Kai, who completed her eligibility for the University of Hawai'i last year, finished as the most decorated player in program history. She was a four-time All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selection and three-time WAC Player of the Year.

As a sophomore in 2003, she led the nation in scoring with 29 goals. After that season, she received an invitation to the Under-21 national team. She scored a team-high 12 goals and helped the United States capture the Nordic Cup, the age group's premier competition.

Although she is 22, she was invited to the Under-21 national team camp again as one of several over-21 players. That camp was from Jan. 13 to 21 in Carson. The strength of her performance there helped her earn an invitation to the full national team.

"(Under-21 coach Jillian Ellis) told me it was an evaluation of the older players to see how we did," Kai said. "I did pretty good. I scored and had a lot of assists and she was like, 'You did really good.' She went back and told (Greg Ryan) the news."

Kai was invited to join the Under-21 team on a trip to London in February, but those plans changed last Monday when she received a call from Ryan, the U.S. national team coach, inviting her to next month's tryouts.

She has been training on her own, and plans on practicing with the Kamehameha girls soccer team and former Leahi club coach Michele Nagamine, "getting some soccer action before I go up."

While Kai was in Carson with the Under-21 team, she was one of three Hawai'i players at the soccer facility. Hale'iwa native Brian Ching was training with the full men's national team, and Duke Hashimoto, of Kapolei, was there for a Major League Soccer combine.

The Algarve Cup in Portugal is the next tournament for the national team. It is March 9 to 15, and Kai would be trying out for a spot on that roster at next month's camp.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com.