Three former and one current Georgetown women’s soccer players competed in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer.
Although all four Hoyas failed to advance past the group stage of the tournament, they were all a part of historic firsts. At just 26 years old, Olympian Daisy Cleverley (GRD ’21) made her third consecutive World Cup team representing co-host New Zealand in her country’s first major tournament on home soil. Kyra Carusa (GRD ’19), Maya Alcantara (GRD ’23) and junior goalkeeper Lara Larco made history, representing Ireland, the Philippines and Haiti in their respective nations’ first-ever appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Cleverley, who plays professionally for HB Køge Women in Denmark, is no stranger to the international stage, having made her debut for the New Zealand Football Ferns in 2014 at the age of 17. However, even for an experienced international player, competing on home soil was a particularly momentous occasion.
“Every time I get to put on the fern, it is a huge honor, so being able to do that in front of my family and friends is incredibly special,” Cleverley told Georgetown Athletics.
Cleverley appeared in 33 games for the Hoyas during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, tallying four goals and three assists and earning 2021 Big East Midfielder of the Year honors.
“My first season at Georgetown was some of the best football I’ve played,” Cleverley told Georgetown Athletics. “I loved the way we played at Georgetown, and the successes I had with this program set me up well both at a professional level (gaining my first pro contract) and international level (being selected and playing for New Zealand).”
New Zealand opened the tournament with an emphatic 1-0 win over Norway, before suffering a shocking 0-1 upset at the hands of fellow Hoya Alcantara and the Philippines. A final result of a 0-0 draw against Switzerland sealed the Kiwis’ fate as the first host nation to be eliminated before the knockout rounds.
Despite the Philippines’ upset of New Zealand, Alcantara’s side exited the competition after suffering 0-6 and 0-2 defeats against Norway and Switzerland, respectively. Nevertheless, Alcantara’s selection to the tournament fulfilled a childhood dream.
“Playing in a World Cup is something I’ve dreamed of and worked toward my entire life,” Alcantara wrote on Instagram. “Even though it didn’t unfold exactly as I had envisioned, I’m overwhelmed with pride. The little girl within me dances with joy, cherishing every moment that brought me here.”
Alcantara, who started 14 games as a defender for Georgetown during the 2022 season, said it was a privilege to play for the Philippines on the world stage.
“Representing the Philippines on the international stage is a responsibility that I take to heart — it means carrying the hopes and aspirations of an entire nation,” Alcantara told Georgetown Athletics. Larco also dreamed of playing in a World Cup since she was a kid. In a time of rising civil unrest in Haiti, the opportunity to represent her nation was particularly meaningful.
“Knowing the adversity we’ve faced as a team and as a country made this experience far more special than anyone can imagine,” Larco wrote on Instagram. “I love my country more than I can express, and being able to positively impact Haiti in such troubling times is something I hold very close to my heart.”
Women’s soccer is growing exponentially in Ireland, and Carusa appeared in the country’s first-ever World Cup game, starting in all three of Ireland’s matches in what many pundits dubbed the “Group of Death,” which also included Australia, Canada and Nigeria.
“For myself, my goals are to do what I do best and rise to any and all challenges,” Carusa wrote to The Hoya. “Regardless of the stage, the pressure is a privilege.”
Although Ireland ended the tournament with a scoreless draw against Nigeria and a one-goal deficit against both Canada and Australia, Carusa’s performance was enough to impress her hometown NWSL team, San Diego Wave FC, who acquired her from the London City Lionesses on Aug. 16 for the remainder of the 2023 season. Carusa scored her first NWSL goal to propel the Wave to victory over the Orlando Pride on Aug. 25.
San Diego Wave FC Head Coach Casey Stoney was confident Carusa would be a talented addition to the squad.
“She will bring healthy competition to our forward group and provide the team with much-needed depth for the rest of this season,” Stoney said of Carusa in a press release. “She’s just coming back from the World Cup and eager to make a difference to help her hometown make a run deep into the playoffs.”
Carusa spent one graduate season on the Hilltop after playing her undergraduate years at Stanford. The forward started in all of Georgetown’s 2018 season games, racking up 10 goals and 12 assists across 25 match-ups.
American-born, Carusa is eligible to play through her Irish grandparents. After impressing in her collegiate games on the Hilltop, she earned her international debut in February 2020 for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 Qualifiers after gaining her Irish citizenship.
Georgetown women’s soccer Head Coach Dave Nolan helped Carusa hone her skills on the field and motivated her to seek eligibility for the Irish women’s national team.
“The biggest influence Georgetown had on me was my coach, Dave Nolan,” Carusa wrote to The Hoya. “He is the one that encouraged me to pursue getting my Irish citizenship. He made something that seemed impossible incredibly possible for me!”