Sunset women’s football team seems to have replenished its already dominant squad exceptionally well in the summer.
A number of new players have joined the league, and President’s Cup champions who were also FA Cup finalists last term.
Sunset set the tone for this season by capturing the Charity Shield last week with a 2-1 victory over Scholars International, and some credit goes to Danielle Sanjenko, a center-back.
Since she started playing football as a 7-year-old in Canada, Sanjenko has always been a central midfielder.
When her college coach made her move into defense, she resisted, but after a few extremely successful seasons, Sanjenko realized it was the right decision. She is a tough-tackling, uncompromising player and good in the air, which confirms why the coaches moved her there.
“Funny how coaches tend to have the most effective insights,” she said.
“I love the challenge of football. Sport, in general, challenges individuals physically and mentally.”
Having arrived in Cayman only seven months ago, she did not play for Sunset last season, but attended the FA Cup final when Scholars beat Sunset.
“I saw the devastation in the Sunset players’ faces and knew this was something that meant so much to them. Coming on as a new player this season, that same passion is prevalent and contagious.
“It is great to play with a group of ladies with this amount of intensity.”
Against Scholars last week, Sanjenko, 23, came on early in the second half as a sub when the score was 0-0 and emotions were running high.
Scholars were captained by midfield ace Jetena Bodden who scored their goal and gave a typical combative performance.
“I knew we still had a lot of time and all it takes is one goal,” said Sanjenko. “I wanted to make sure we got that goal early so we could settle into a defensive play for the rest of the game.”
She was surprised and impressed with the tempo and how physical it was.
“I got hit unexpectedly within the first minute of coming on and it was a firm reminder to bring intensity.”
Her ambition is to gel into the team’s system as well as the coaching styles of coaches Alan Purvis and Trevor Murphy.
“From there I want to find what my role is on the team and focus on perfecting that. I am a firm believer that if everyone plays their role, the results will come.
“As a team, I know we have our focus on capitalizing on all four opportunities to win championship titles.”
Having played many sports and gleaned plenty of experience from numerous coaches, Sanjenko’s ambition is to encourage and guide others in their own sport.
“Whether that means coaching, being involved in planning and organizing programs, or perhaps mentoring a young athlete.”
Her family moved a lot when she was growing up, so sport has served as a constant throughout her life. “I would play organized sport as well as pick-up games with my brother and his friends.
“Towards the end of middle school I was told to focus on one – football was the one.”
With the backing of her parents she reached a high college level and traveled extensively around Canada, the United States, Denmark and Sweden.
“I continue to focus on sport on a more individual level, such as running, weights, yoga and biking.
“In Cayman I have taken to water sports – snorkeling, diving, paddle boarding and kayaking. I couldn’t imagine my life without sports in some capacity.”
She is impressed with the promotion of sport locally. “I see bikers, runners, swimmers and walkers out every morning and I don’t need to look hard to find some sport activity in the evening. I just applaud each person taking their own health into account. They are my local heroes.”
Professionally, Sanjenko looks up to Kaylyn Kyle, the Canadian women’s midfield footballer.
Sanjenko expects the teams that will challenge Sunset the most this year to be Scholars and Elite. “Scholars picked up new players this year and a new coach and Elite have some good senior players.
“Based on the dedication that Alan and Trevor have as well as their football knowledge, there is no doubt in my mind that we can win everything this season.”
Sunset keeper Jovani Hessing and new striker Martha Hall are the key players Sanjenko sees as continuing the club’s success.
These type of players also inspire youngsters. “I have seen immense support and attention given towards the development of youth programs in the Cayman football community, which is a huge positive,” she said.
“I would like to see even more support given towards young female athletes in Cayman football.”
She would also like to see an academy program. “I was involved in academy programs throughout my youth and I think it is crucial for skill and personal development.”