Change is good — just ask Noelle Sylvester
By Bruce Fuhr,
The Nelson Daily Sports
During youth soccer Noelle Sylvester was counted on for filling the net.
Rep teams, house league, even high-level women’s tournaments, the speedy Sylvester was the “go-to girl” when it came to scoring.
Fast forward a few, well, a lot of years, and the Nelson Youth Soccer grad has found out what life was like for all those defenders she burned en route to bulging the onion bag.
Sylvester, 29, has been counted on as one of the main cogs on the defence for the 2010 edition of the University of Victoria Vikes Varsity Women’s Soccer Team.
“Well I’m not scoring any goals but I am stopping a lot of them,” the 5’4” Sylvester said on the eve of a pivotal weekend in CIS Women’s Soccer League play.
“I play (on) defence now so while still involved in the attack I am not the one scoring all of the goals. We have some really technically talented girls up front and in the mid (field) who are scoring for us.”
Sylvester’s new found skill on the defensive line will be put to the test when the Vikings enter the final weekend of the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Women’s Soccer season.
Following a mid-season skid that saw UVIC (4-5-3) lose five of six games, the Vikes have an outside shot at qualifying for the post season after a pair of wins over Regina (2-0) and Manitoba (2-1).
Victoria currently occupies seventh spot in league standings, four points out of a playoff spot.
The Vikes face 1-10 Lethbridge Pronghorns Saturday at home before concluding the season Sunday against University of Calgary Dinos.
U of C, three points in front of UVic, is also in the hunt for the final playoff spot. Both teams are chasing University of Saskatchewan, which plays second-place Trinity Western and third-place University of B.C.
So the post season is not out of the question just yet.
“There is still a glimmer of hope for playoffs,” said Sylvester, pursuing a degree in Physical Education and English minor at the Island University. “We won both of our games last weekend so we are just clawing our way to the top.”
“This weekend will be huge,” she added. “We played well last weekend so we are hoping to continue with that momentum and have a good week of training and get some wins next weekend as well.”
It’s been a transition season for Sylvester and the Vikes. Injuries have slowed the once-mighty Vikes, forcing the team to switch gears when the losses began to pile up.
“We decided last weekend that we needed to have fun while we were playing or what is the point (of playing) . . . and it worked, we won both of our games,” Sylvester explained.
“(Plus during the losing streak) we also had our two biggest weekends back to back playing Trinity and UBC two weekends in a row and that is just mentally and physically exhausting.”
Unfortunately for Sylvester, she too was also injured, which didn’t help either.
“This season has been a good and bad,” Sylvester admitted. “I had a starting position but ended up with a concussion and some other injuries that held me out of some games.”
This is Sylvester’s second season with the Vikes, which is quite remarkable considering the 20-plus L.V. Rogers grad is playing with some teammates nearly ten years younger.
Sylvester decided to take a few years off after high school before heading to university. In 2007, a good six years after graduating from L.V. Rogers, Sylvester decided now was the time to get an education and tryout for university ball.
But days before the sessions she became ill. The sickness, combined with being from the hinterland of the province and not being known on the provincial stage, cost her a shot at a spot on the team.
Sylvester played in the Premier League for two seasons before convincing herself to take another shot at the Vikes in 2009. And by all accounts, the wait was worth it as the soft spoken Sylvester is making her mark with the Vikes.
“When I am healthy I am getting a lot of playing time so that is good,” Sylvester said. “I am playing defence now so it’s a little different than I am used to but so fun.”
Fun, even when she is not scoring goals.