RDC Queens soccer head coach Dave Colley couldn’t help but smile when asked about his goaltending for the upcoming ACAC season.
Colley was a bit worried when veteran Lauren Good graduated after last season, which left a hole he expected to fill with a rookie.
All that changed when Jesse Stewart told him she would be returning after attending the University of Alberta the past two seasons.
“I got my degree (in education) and decided to get another degree (in sociology) which meant I could return to Red Deer,” she explained. “And if I was going back I figured I’d like to play soccer again.”
Stewart, who came out of the Red Deer Renegades program, played three seasons with the Queens, beginning in the 2011-12 season. She backed up Good the first year and took over full time the next two.
Her first year she played three games, allowing one goal and recording two shutouts. In 2012-13 she put together an undefeated season, posting a 7-0-3 record and a 0.40 goals-against-average (gaa) and eight shutouts. She played three playoff games, allowing five goals. In 2013-14 she had a 5-3-2 record, a 1.10 gaa and five shutouts.
“She was a top goalie in the league when she played and while she’s been away a couple of years she’ll be fine and give us a lot of a mature, calm presence back there,” said Colley.
Stewart isn’t worried about coming back after two seasons.
“Once I knew I was returning I started working out more and also played with the Red Deer Renegades Major League team during the summer,” she said. “That helped for sure. I find that in terms of the play, tactics and the basic stuff I’m not really behind. It’s just a matter of reaction time and getting on the ground. But that’s coming along quickly.”
Stewart got into soccer in Calgary before moving to Gull Lake where she joined the Renegades, playing for 11 years before joining the Queens.
Now that she’s back at RDC she’s also back with Good, who is the goaltending coach.
“It makes it better that I know her and she knows me,” said the 22-year-old Stewart. “She knows that I know what it takes and I also know what I need to improve on and can let her know that.”
The five-foot-eight Stewart feels she can work more on ball control and on crossing plays.
“It will come. The thing is I can read the plays, that just comes naturally.”
Stewart has fit back into the RDC roster nicely, although only Kaitlin D’Arcy was with the team three years ago. She does know Taylor Heist, who she played with in minor soccer.
“But we have a good group,” she said. “We have several veterans on defence and I have a lot of confidence in them.”
Stewart will be backed up by 18-year-old rookie Kayla Kaip, from Humbolt, Sask.
“We work well together,” Stewart said. “We played a couple of exhibition games (in Camrose) and shared time.”
“It will be good for Kayla to learn behind Jesse,” said Colley. “That and along with Lauren as her trainer.”
The Queens play The Kings University, Sept. 3 in Ponoka in their final exhibition game. RDC opens their regular schedule Sept. 10 at home against Lakeland.