Gagnet Reports to Lawrence After UEFA Cup Title
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas freshman Aurélie Gagnet arrived in Lawrence Monday after spending the last month competing for France’s U19 national team in the UEFA U19 European Cup in Wales. The Montpellier, France native played in four of the five tournament stage matches, including the event final against England last Saturday, Aug. 31.
Gagnet, who is a defensive specialist and saw time as the right side defender for France throughout the qualifying rounds and UEFA Cup Tournament, started and played in all but two of the matches in which her team competed. With her on the back line, France went 4-0-1 and allowed just two goals in five UEFA Cup matches. In each of her starts, she played all 90 minutes, including the full 120 minutes in the 2-0 championship win over England that was decided in extra time.
“I’m just very lucky,” said Gagnet of the chance to represent her country. “Every time I play for my team, I enjoy it. It was such an honor to be a part of it.”
In the final against England, neither team could find the back of the net, forcing the match to go to extra time. Just five minutes into the bonus period Gagnet’s teammate, Sandie Tolleti, broke the stalemate with her goal in the 95 minute to put the French on top.
“I was so happy when we scored (the go-ahead goal),” Gagnet recalled of the UEFA final. “The game really became a lot easier after we got ahead. The last few minutes were definitely much less stressful.”
Nine minutes into the second extra time period, France clinched the win when Aminata Dialo slid one past the English keeper to put France up 2-0. Six minutes later, the end of extra time came and France was crowned the 2013 U19 UEFA Champions, claiming the nation’s third title and second in the last four years.
“After the match my teammates and I went to celebrate at a club in Swansea (Wales),” said Gagnet of the post-match festivities. “It was a lot of fun celebrating and being with all of my teammates because I have known many of them since we played together when we were younger.”
While the championship game and post-match celebration were memorable for Gagnet, her own personal tournament highlight came several months earlier as she was helping the team through the UEFA qualifying rounds. On April 9th in the match versus Switzerland, Gagnet scored her first-career international goal in the 37th minute. The accomplishment is a rare thing for a player who spends most of her minutes on the other half of the field, however when the Swiss made the mistake of leaving her open near their goal twice in a matter of minutes, Gagnet took advantage.
“A few minutes before my goal, I had the ball and a pretty open shot at the goal, but I passed it away,” explained Gaget. “After that I told myself, ‘I should have taken that shot.’ Five minutes later I got the ball in almost the same spot and, that time, I took the shot and it just went in.”
With the UEFA Championship behind her, Gagnet can now turn her attention to the next chapter in her soccer career as she joins the now No. 24-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, who are in the infancy of their 2013 campaign.
She first got interested in playing for KU when she was approached by KU head coach Mark Francis last spring at the qualifying matches of the UEFA cup. Even with some of her local French club teams clamoring for her to join their squads, Gagnet took her official visit to Lawrence during the summer and immediately found a connection with the team and coaches.
“I enjoyed my visit this summer,” said Gagnet. “During my trip I met most of the girls on the team and they were very friendly and welcoming.”
After wrestling with the difficult prospect of leaving France and her family and friends, she decided to become a Jayhawk and join Coach Francis’ Kansas squad.
“I talked a lot with my family and friends and, even though it was a difficult decision, I have no regrets,” concluded Gagnet. “I’m very happy to be here!”
Gagnet reported to Lawrence on Monday night, just over 48 hours after her victory against England in Wales. She spent most of her first full day on campus Tuesday in meetings and getting caught up with missed classes from the past week. Later in the afternoon she took part in the first practice with her new team and, despite needing some direction in the pre-practice stretching routine, hit the ground running and got right to work with the rest of her KU teammates.
Gagnet will need to pick up the Jayhawk schemes quickly as KU’s next match is just three days away. Kansas will jet to Arizona Thursday in preparation for the Sun Devil Desert Classic in Tempe, where it will take on Arizona on Sept. 6 and tournament host Arizona State on Sept. 8.