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MEN’S SOCCER

Purdue Northwest freshman to represent native Bermuda in CONCACAF qualifier

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HAMMOND — While the Purdue Northwest men’s soccer team is on a mission to finish its season strong and land an NCAA Division-II national tournament berth, the Pride will have to do so without one of their promising freshmen, who will experience a different soccer mission — if not an opportunity of a lifetime.

Forward Jazir Warner, 18, of Sandys, Bermuda, has been selected to represent his native nation on its CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 team, which will compete Nov. 5-14 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

This first in a series of qualifier tournaments kicks off the process by which national member associations of CONCACAF — Confederation of North, Central and Caribbean Association Football — will select their teams for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Implemented this year, the new qualifying process seeks to provide CONCACAF members an enhanced way to determine their best young players.

“I’m very excited,” Warner said, adding that his having trained previously with a Bermuda national academy team likely impacted his U-20 Bermuda team selection.

According to Purdue Northwest seven-year head coach Ryan Hayes, “It’s huge anytime someone is asked to represent his country — really a massive honor!”

Identified and recruited by Hayes through a recruiting agency, Warner — known as “J” to his PNW teammates and coaches — has been a good teammate and a relatively quiet young man, according to his coach, but one who communicates dramatically through his talent.

“J is an attacking-minded player,” Hayes said. “He’s very dynamic and explosive with a great deal of raw, natural ability. He’s someone with a lot of upside.”

Aiding his transition to American higher education and the collegiate game of soccer — football, as the sport is known in Bermuda where he began playing at age 7 — were the previous two and a half years he spent in the U.S. attending a Maryland high school that also recruited him as a student-athlete.

Coming off the bench during his first season this fall at PNW, Warner has seen his playing time increase. He also claims to have learned valuable lessons about how to respond more effectively to the academic rigor of higher education.

Though he did not visit Purdue Northwest before enrolling, he offers a verbal thumbs-up about his experience thus far.

“I was looking at a lot of different schools (online), and everything I saw about Purdue Northwest was great,” said Warner, who is interested in studying cyber security. “I feel I’m getting decent playing time as a freshman, and though I struggled at first with my classes, I have learned to take advantage of different help services on campus, so I’m happy here.”

Warner joined his Bermuda U-20 team Monday and plans to return to Purdue Northwest following his CONCACAF tournament experience.

Meanwhile, PNW is scheduled to complete its regular season at 2 p.m. Thursday, hosting Great Lakes Iintercollegiate Athletic Conference leader Davenport (MI).  The fourth-place Pride (8-7, 7-5) defeated Davenport, 2-1, on the road Oct. 10.

“We’ll miss J, but we always want what’s best for our players, and especially when your country calls,” Hayes said. “We’ve had some really good wins and some tough losses this season. We’re priming ourselves for a good run in the (GLIAC) tournament.”

The winner of the GLIAC tourney (Nov. 8, 12, 14) earns a berth in the NCAA Division-II national tournament. Were PNW to qualify, Warner possibly could rejoin the Pride.

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