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Newfoundland and Labrador's Canada Games goalkeeper is a goal-setter

Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Games goalkeeper Sydney Walsh isn’t just successful on the soccer pitch. The soon-to-be Memorial University student also consistently won scholar-athlete honours during her time at Waterford Valley high in St. John’s.
Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Games goalkeeper Sydney Walsh isn’t just successful on the soccer pitch. The soon-to-be Memorial University student also consistently won scholar-athlete honours during her time at Waterford Valley high in St. John’s.

Winnipeg — Sydney Walsh was still in high school last November, settling into her final year at Waterford Valley high in St. John’s when Memorial University issued a news release announcing the young soccer goaltending star was committed to attending MUN and dressing for the Sea-Hawks.

Memorial coach Mike Power was positively giddy with the move and, reading between the lines, had all but given the young keeper the starting job beginning in 2017.

“Sydney is a very high-performing athlete who offers us great stability for years to come,” Power said in that missive sent from MUN last November. “We feel she has the potential to develop into an all-star keeper at the AUS level throughout her career as a Sea-Hawk.”

So far through these Canada Summer Games, we’re seeing what all the hype is about.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Krystyn Lee (left) of St. John’s is shown in action against British Columbia in the teams’ opening game in the Canada Games women’s soccer competition Saturday in Winnipeg.

Walsh was simply outstanding Saturday in Newfoundland’s opening soccer game against British Columbia – a Canadian soccer power at any level – making at least 10-12 stops in a 1-0 loss.

She came out again Sunday night with another big effort in a 1-1 draw with Alberta.

Walsh, at 18, is the best young female keeper to come along in long time, a focused athlete who was committed to her craft since the day she joined soccer.

And while she’s a Type A personality — she’s equally successful in the classroom, having won high school scholar-athlete awards in each of the past three years — her introduction to soccer wasn’t one of an immediate star in the making.

“Believe it or not,” said the well-spoken, outgoing future Sea-Hawk, “my reason for becoming a goalkeeper isn’t as deep as most people would believe.

“I wasn’t very coordinated at that age — I was going through that lanky, awkward stage — and I realized I should try and better myself. I decided I wanted to better myself in that area because when you’re young, you kind of rotate through the positions.

“I soon realized I liked it in goal.”

It was all the inspiration she needed. Even at a young age, she worked and worked at her game, eventually making the provincial program.

Coming up through the minor ranks, she’s switched clubs, to the so-called weaker teams, all with the aim of facing more shots. She’s played with the provincial U18 team as an underager in Jubilee Cup provincial play.

“That’s what has made me the goalkeeper and the soccer player that I am today,” she said.

That, and a vast amount of dedication.

“There have been a lot of early mornings, and lot of days in the gym,” she said. “It’s hard. You make a lot of sacrifices, but I’ve gotten used to it, as have my friends.

“They’re like, ‘Hey, Syd you want to go do this today?’ ‘Can’t, got soccer practice.’ ‘Do something after?’ ‘Can’t, have a classroom session.’ They’ve kind of become used to it, but my friend group is so supportive of everything that I do.”

She hopes the hard work pays off here in Winnipeg with a strong showing, or perhaps even — dare we say it? — a medal.

One thing is certain, however, this brilliant keeper couldn’t be more happy than to be on the field with this group of Canada Games girls.

“These girls here that I’ve been with all the way up through,” she said, “they’re the ones who really keep me motivated through all this.

“Being able to see them every day, working hard, improving … that’s my biggest motivation.”

 

rshort@thetelegram.com

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