Photos by Kyle West
By Adriana Skaljin
For Claudia Continenza, assistant captain of the women’s soccer team, soccer has shaped her life both on and off of the field.
The fourth-year English and History student started playing soccer at the age of three, picking up skating and basketball as well. She eventually took to soccer and realized that it is the sport about which she is most passionate.
Continenza started playing for Glanbrook and then Mississauga, eventually moving back to Hamilton and playing for Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School. This ongoing passion for the sport lead to Continenza becoming a walk-on for the McMaster team in her first year, where she has played every year since.
“I noticed two differences between playing high school and university-level soccer,” said Continenza. “Firstly, is the commitment level, regarding both determination and fitness. Secondly, playing at a university level allows you to have new respect for everyone around you, as the team becomes a second family.”
Both on and off the field, the women’s soccer team has become a support system for every player. Whether it is cheering each other on and remaining supportive no matter the outcome during the game, or spending time together outside of the game, the team has created a family-like environment.
“We’re a very goofy team,” explained Continenza. “The majority of the team, fifteen players to be exact, are fourth-years and we have played together throughout our undergraduate career. We are always joking around and choose to spend our time together off the field as well. Some of the girls even live together.”
Continenza speaks on behalf of every player when she says that this family dynamic has bettered their playing skills, as the ongoing support encourages players to take risks on the field.
“You’re never afraid of messing up, because you know that the team will always support you and will recognize the risk that you were taking,” said Continenza.
It is this support that manages the team dynamic. Anyone who has been on a team will agree that the closeness and positivity between teammates will be reflected in their playing.
Moments such as a scoreless tie against the University of Western Ontario Mustangs back on Aug. 31, and then playing them again on Sept. 21, made the team realize the strength in positivity.
The Marauders ended up losing 2-1 in their game against the Mustangs, but there are still positives to be taken away from that loss.
“We played well during our last game against Western, but I think that we played better this time,” said head coach Joe Valvasori.
Despite the loss that came from the second Western game, it is evident that the team dynamic pushed for a win in its progression as a team.
“Sometimes, our results don’t accurately reflect how we’ve been doing,” explained Continenza. “This is some of the best soccer that we have played and we are doing everything right. It is just the results that escape us. This is something that we have realized and use as motivation for the second half of the season.”
This concept of a family-oriented team dynamic has been echoed by teammates such as Emma Czernuszka, who has recently been named McMaster Female Athlete of the Week.
“On and off the field we are first and foremost a family,” Czernuszka said. “We win together, lose together, push through every grueling fitness practice and midterm season together, and most importantly we always have each other’s backs. Our trust in each other is put into action every practice and game.”
Czernuszka went on to explain the ways that coach Valvasori would motivate the team before games. He reiterates the fact that they need to fight for one another and believe in each other because that is what families do.
Valvasori said himself that the team is a “tight-knit bunch that has created a family like atmosphere.” The support that comes from the coaches has contributed to this positive dynamic.
“There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for anyone on my team, and I think that mentality is what allows us to be such a cohesive unit,” said Czernuszka.
It is through their love for the sport and each other that the McMaster women’s soccer team works to achieve their goal of being a unified and successful team both on and off the pitch.