Regent Royal Marelly Balentina Competes in 2022 CONCACAF Women’s Qualifiers
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (March 3, 2022) – On February 19 and 22, Marelly Balentina, a master’s student in Regent University’s Robertson School of Government, competed in two soccer games for her home country of Curacao in the CONCACAF Women Qualifiers Matches (CONCACAF W Qualifiers). The first game took place in Curacao against Guatemala, and the second in the Dominican Republic against St.Kitts and Nevis. Although her young team lost both games, they are focused on training to compete in an additional two games in April, in hopes of securing a third-place ranking for the sport.
Balentina only began playing soccer competitively in 2020 when she joined the Regent’s women’s soccer team as a secondary sport off-season. This late entry to the sport makes her journey to CONCACAF W Qualifiers more exceptional. Balentina’s primary sport is javelin throwing, and she is a top athlete for the Regent Royals Women’s Track & Field team.
About CONCACAF W Qualifiers
The CONCACAF W Qualifiers is an international football (soccer) tournament played by women’s national teams that are members of CONCACAF. The Qualifiers are organized in six groups (A-F) of five teams that each play four games during February and April. The top finisher from each group will advance to the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship, which is scheduled for this summer from July 4-20, 2022, in Mexico. The top two teams from the W Championship will go on to play in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that is held every four years.
Balentina was invited to play goalie for Curacao in the CONCACAF W Qualifiers after the coach viewed a live-streamed soccer game of Regent v. Bob Jones University from Fall 2021. Balentina shared that she was not intentionally trying to gain national recognition; the potential for such attention had not been on her radar. However, once the game was published on Facebook, it was shared several times and the film was eventually seen by a player on the Curacao Women’s football team who shared it with her coach. The coach then reached out to Regent’s athletic director Dr. Sam Botta, on January 24, 2022, to inquire if Balentina could play for the team. Botta was excited for the opportunity and immediately agreed.
“After having already won two NCCAA National Championships in Track & Field, Marelly continues to represent Regent University at the highest athletic level,” stated Botta. “As gifted as Marelly is as a collegiate athlete, Marelly’s demonstration of Christian leadership and faith in Jesus Christ is what truly defines her. On behalf of our university and athletic department, we are both proud and blessed to have Marelly as a Regent Royal student-athlete.”
The Journey to Competing in Two Sports … And the Power of Persistence
The CONCACAF W Qualifiers chain of events was surprising since Balentina began her soccer career only a year ago at Regent. She originally came to the States on a full track and field scholarship with Jacksonville State University in Alabama for her first two years of undergraduate studies before transferring to compete for Regent her junior year. Her senior year coincided with COVID, canceling her final track season. However, the school extended her scholarship through Fall 2020. Since her track season was still canceled, Balentina decided to play for fun on the Regent soccer team during Fall 2020, but the soccer season was also canceled. Though she played no competitive games that season, Balentina continued to train with the soccer team to begin learning the sport. She graduated with a B.S. in criminal justice that December.
Still desiring to play a final season in Regent athletics, Balentina decided to pursue a master’s in national security studies and remain on the track and field team, but the Spring 2021 the track season was canceled again. At this point, Balentina was discouraged and questioning her choices, feeling like she was pursuing a hopeless dream.
She gave her college athletic aspirations one more attempt when she chose to continue with her master’s in Fall 2021 and play on the soccer team one more time in the hopes of finishing a season. This past season was the first time Balentina ever played goalie and competed in an official college soccer game. It was during this season that she played the Bob Jones game that caught the attention of the Curacao team.
Balentina flew out on February 13, 2022, a week before her two matches, to participate in an intensive training camp with the entire team. During this time, she was excited to see how the girls would all come together to represent their country in such a prominent event. She shared that after officially joining the Regent soccer team only a year prior, she was not especially nervous about working with the new CONCACAF team. Her Regent experience prepared her for it. Balentina believes the key to team connection is communication: “When you’re on the field, you’ve got to communicate what needs to happen on the field.” Balentina added, “I have learned a lot (especially technically and mentally) from my goalkeeping practices and games I have played for CONCACAF. I pray and hope that this coming season with the Regent’s Women’s Soccer team I will be able to pass along my experiences and lead the team to the NCCAA Championships during my last collegiate season.”
Balentina also shared that she is excited not only to play for her nation but to shine a light on the value of Regent Royals athletics. She understands that her actions and attitude reflect Regent and ultimately Christ and is thrilled to be entrusted with such a responsibility. She believes that one of the biggest ways she can reflect Christ and Regent well is by “winning with character,” the Regent Royals motto that the athletic department has instilled in their athletes. Balentina’s goal is to love winning but to love people more.
“This opportunity has been life-changing, and I will approach soccer with a different mindset because now that I have a taste of what it feels like to be on this highly competitive level,” Balentina said. “It has only inspired me to work harder because the top is truly within reach. I hope to one day to represent Curacao at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
Balentina is currently in her final year of Regent’s National Security Studies master’s program. Upon graduation, she will do Optional Practical Training for a year as an international student before continuing in academia to earn a doctorate in forensic science.
Written by Jordan Lance – Student Writer
About Regent University
Founded in 1978, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university with more than 11,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 150 areas of study including business, communication and the arts, counseling, cybersecurity, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing, healthcare, and psychology. Regent University is ranked the #1 Best Accredited Online College in the United States (Study.com, 2020), the #1 Safest College Campus in Virginia (YourLocalSecurity, 2021), and the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia for 10 years in a row (U.S. News & World Report, 2022).