This past OUA season has been a tough one for the Lions. Giving their all on the field only to come up short is slowly becoming rather typical. The men’s soccer team lost by 3-2 in the OUA finals, the men’s football team didn’t make it to the play-offs, and the women’s soccer team lost 0-1 in the playoffs.
But a case for a potential silver lining can be made — at least for the women’s soccer team. This season, alongside their award winning coach, two players stood out: goalkeeper Patricia Vrysellas and OUA All-Star midfielder Kalifornia Mitchell.
Majority of the games the Lions played this season were down to the wire, where the game was either tied or one of the teams led by one goal only. As is typical in soccer, in these games, all eyes are on the goalkeeper.
For Vrysellas, a third-year kinesiology and concurrent education student, that meant there was no room for mistakes. Her focus was to anticipate plays before they were being made by the other team in hopes to maintain a tie or a lead. Throughout it all, Vrysellas wanted to make sure that the team’s momentum did not break. However, not all of that came to fruition, as mistakes were made and the pressure to perform increased.
In regards to the immense scrutiny a goalkeeper faces Vrysellas says,“ If we make a mistake or couldn’t block one shot then everyone knows. And they forget all about the ‘big saves.’“
Elaborating further, Vrysellas comments on a common stereotype regarding goalkeepers — that their only job is to protect the net. “There is a misleading notion that attempts to cast the goalkeeper’s role as merely saving the ball and protecting the net. But it goes so much more beyond that. There are games where I receive 15 shots and games where I receive zero shots. But that job is still not done. I still have to communicate and play on my feet and perform other tasks that may not involve stopping the ball but are still necessary for winning the game. As a goalkeeper, you need to have the foresight to anticipate plays from the other team and help the ‘backline’ (defensive players).
A rookie goalkeeper, Vrysellas had to maintain her calm even when walking into high pressure situations. For her, the key was confidence and not letting the stereotypes psych her out.
“To counter this pressure, you just have to remind yourself that you are talented, that you worked hard to be a part of the starting lineup and that your mistakes do not define you.”
All in all, both Vrysellas and Mitchell are proud of the way they performed this year. They believe that this season was a learning experience for them because as a young team (with not many seniors in the starting lineup) they got the opportunity to better work on their chemistry.
Mitchell, in her fourth year of the children, childhood & youth studies program, reflects on this past year’s performance and attributes her work ethic for her consistent performance as a top-notch midfielder. While she does not think that they were the underdogs, she too agrees with Vrysellas that it will only get better from here.
For both Vrysellas and Mitchell, now the focus is on preparing for finals season but also maintaining their fitness for next season.
Vrysellas’s final thoughts on this season, which are also echoed by Mitchell, are, “Underdogs or not, next year the OUA will not know what is coming at them.”