Sydney Daines is on quite a roller coaster this year.
In her first season for the University of Alberta Pandas Women’s Soccer team, the 20-year-old Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) rookie went from just hoping she could see some time on the field, to a bonafide all-star.
The roller coaster started on her first road trip with the Pandas, playing against NCAA calibre teams in Montana and it was a baptism by fire for the former RDC Queens standout.
“Initially just the aggressiveness of the game,” she explained about the hardest part of the transition from college to university soccer. “How much more critical thinking there is behind each play. Every step influences what you are going to do in the game, you go minute-by-minute… Everyone is talented at the CIS level. I think basically it is who’s going to come out more fit.”
In that opening pre-season tournament, their were more tribulations than celebrations and it wasn’t until early October, when Daines scored five times in two games and was named a Panda Athlete of the Week, that everything started to click. Four of the five goals came in one game against the UBC-Okanagan, a day Daines called the best highlight of the season.
“In preseason we went down to Montana to play some teams, I started playing the game and I was completely lost, I got pulled, I was so confused,” she recalled. “For a while, in the first couple games I had a hard time scoring. I hit the post, I couldn’t score for the life of me. I assisted lots of goals, then after I got the four goals, it all took off from there, about halfway through the season.”
It took off to the tune of seven goals and five assists on the season in 14 games, which lead her Pandas team and was fifth in the league overall. An extremely impressive feat for a first-year transfer. The Innisfail native was named culminated her rookie campaign as a Canada West second-team all-star earlier this winter.
“It was really good, I wasn’t expecting that. Because I was just coming from Red Deer College… it’s a big step, so I didn’t even know if I’d be starting,” she recalled.
The honour came the way kids find out most of their information these days, a teammate in the group chat congratulated her about all-star selection.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “It was a good day.”
While Daines had been named an all-star before in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference (ACAC), she wasn’t prepared for what came next. The all-star nominated in the Canada West Conference meant a trip to Vancouver to pick up her award, but it also meant a tryout in January, where all-stars from Canada West are looked at to attend the International University Sports Federation (FISU), in August in Taiwan.
Daines called it, “A small university Olympics”.
“In the ACAC, you were just recognized at a banquet and that was it. There was no game or anything,” she said.
There may be a few nerves in Vancouver, but Daines is already looking long-term.
“It’ll just be a really cool experience to just go and play at that level,” she said. “I still have two years to go, so just to start in my CIS rookie year, to get there is pretty incredible. Hopefully next year I’ll learn even more.”
Soccer was really only the second half of the roller coaster for the first-year U of A Education student, as she spent her summer at various rodeos, about 35 to be exact. She even finished fifth at the Canada Finals Rodeo in Edmonton in Ladies Barrel Racing, which left her just a few dollars out of earning a spot at the Calgary Stampede this summer.