U-16 National Team call-up a ‘dream come true’ for Ogden midfielder
Nevaeh Peregrina’s favorite place is a soccer field.
Soccer isn’t just the Ogden High junior’s favorite sport, it’s where she wants to be when she’s happy, when she has something to celebrate or needs to grieve.
It’s where she wanted to be the day her grandfather died.
“My parents were like, ‘Do you need to come home?’ I was like, ‘No take me to practice right now,’ there’s no way I was going to be able to stay stable without that. The game is just something that’s always been wrapped me personally, my comfort, it’s my safe place,” Peregrina said Friday.
Sometimes, both parts of her name are misspelled as either “Neveah” (on her high school roster and the Team USA roster) or “Peregrine.” Rest assured, opposing players and teams know who she is.
Peregrina is a crafty, confident and passionate midfielder with enough technical ability to beat players one-on-one.
“I think that’s something I was born with is that confidence with the ball at my feet, because instead of running I like the ball straight at my feet and I like to do a few of my tricks,” she said.
Peregrina scored 14 goals with seven assists last year and led the Tigers to a co-championship in Region 13 and the 3A state title.
“I’m just very, very, very, very competitive, with my family we’ll play games, card games and I’m always just like, ‘I can’t lose’ or I lose I’m like, ‘Ok let’s play again,’ so we’ll be playing for hours until I win,” she said.
Peregrina’s accomplishments with the Ogden team, and the La Roca club squad, have been dreams come true, she said.
Then she had to opportunity of a lifetime, donning a U.S. National Team — red, white and blue — uniform this May in Sweden.
Peregrina, also high-level college soccer recruit, had been on the national team’s radar for a few years, then got a call in early 2022 that she was one of 23 girls who had been selected to go to Portland, Oregon, for a camp and to train at the Nike headquarters.
Except the camp wasn’t a camp. It was a tryout for the Under-16 Girls National Team.
“After our third day they were like, ‘Ok, 20 of you girls out of 23 are going to Sweden in three weeks,'” she said.
When Peregrina got back to Ogden, her club coach, Pancho Ovalle, called her a few days later and told her she made the team.
It was an emotional moment. Peregrina was going to wear a Team USA jersey, just like one of her idols, superstar Alex Morgan (Peregrina wears the No. 13 because of Morgan).
Peregrina said it didn’t feel real until she flew to New York, met up with some of the other national team players, then flew to Germany and Denmark before driving to Sweden for the matches.
The U-16 team played in the UEFA Development Tournament, where the Americans beat the host Swedes 4-1, France 3-1 and Norway 4-0. Peregrina played in all three games.
“Actually going to Sweden and being in the 20 girls out of this entire nation is absolutely crazy and absolutely a dream of mine, it’s in my notes right now before I even went, I was like, ‘Be on the U-16 national team,'” Peregrina said.
Some of the most elite soccer players in the country, particularly those on the national team’s radar, will sometimes forgo high school soccer and stick exclusively to the club circuit.
Peregrina, who started out in youth soccer playing with a boys team, is suiting up for the Tigers and appeared to have the most fun of anyone during Friday’s late-afternoon, 100-plus degree practice on the artificial turf.
“I think the group of girls, and the environment and the way that we’re able to play soccer here is something that keeps me coming back,” she said.
Peregrina has made a lot happen these past two seasons for the Ogden girls soccer team.
During team drills on Friday, Peregrina got the ball on the left side of the field, cut in towards the middle and casually belted a 25-yard goal just under the crossbar.
“She’s a phenomenal player, I’ve never coached anyone like her before in my life,” Ogden coach Ryan Robinson said about Peregrina after the 2021 state championship game.
Last year, for example, she scored practically from the corner flag against Ben Lomond a few seconds after asking fans if she should try to score from there.
The title-winning goal against Morgan in October was hit from about the same spot — just minutes after telling her teammates she would score eventually.
After Peregrina scored, she ran towards the Morgan student section that had been taunting her all game, turned around, pointed at the number on the back of her shirt and then made talking gestures with her hands.
“I feel like my hunger is always there, I’m a very, very sore loser so any time I lose, I get super mad and thankfully, on this team, we don’t lose. So it’s definitely something that’s very, very good, I have so much passion for the game. This is something that I’ve been doing for 13 years now,” Peregrina said.
Playing with the U-16 team further affirmed that she wants to eventually turn pro, play soccer the rest of her life and have another opportunity with the national team.
“They call it ‘renting the crest’ because you’re never for sure on the team, you’re always having to go back to those camps over and over and trying out, that was their motto and it’s definitely been something that’s been stuck in my head every time I’m in practice, I want to rent that crest again and I want to be able to wear that and play for the national team,” Peregrina said.
She specializes in soccer and will most certainly end up on a Division-I team in two years. There are worries about burnout with teenagers as the trend shifts more towards specializing in one sport instead of playing multiple.
Peregrina says she experienced some burnout last year in the high school season. When she came back from the national team games in Europe, her mom made her take a break. Peregrina insisted that soccer is still where she’s happiest.
“I’ve never hated the sport, I’ve always always had such a love for this sport and it’s always what I need,” Peregrina said.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.