Behind the Hawk: Heather Malizia

The Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks’ women’s soccer team has enjoyed tremendous success over the past couple of years, claiming the provincial bronze medal in 2007 and taking home the gold in 2008.

But prior to 2007, the Hawks had not reached the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) finals since 1996.

A large part of the Hawks’ recent success has been third-year midfielder Heather Malizia.

The Burlington native cracked the roster during her first year in the fall of 2007, impressing the coaches with her blinding speed, smooth footwork, play-reading abilities and deadly shot.

But what made Malizia choose to don the purple and gold in the first place?

A lot had to do with her sister Erin Malizia’s recruiting abilities.

“My sister went here, and she always talked about how great it was [because it was a] small school and a great atmosphere,” explained Malizia.

Malizia’s humble beginnings are evident in her modesty today.

“I started playing when I was 10 because all my friends were and it was something to do,” said Malizia.

She’s also quick to point out her team’s effort on the field when describing their success as a unit: “We’ve had so many players who are really talented, we work hard and we’ve had good coaching.”

Malizia has improved every year she’s been at Laurier, netting six goals in her breakout season last year, and seven this season in just 12 games, which is tied with Ali Mckee for the most on the team.

With all this success, Malizia feels that she would be nowhere without the dedicated support of her grandfather who mixes his love and words of encouragement to help Malizia in her game.

“He comes to every single game; he loves watching me play,” said Malizia.

“Even if I have a great game, he’s always on me, saying I can do better.”

But how does Malizia cope with such mounting pressure?

“You have to use [those expectations] as a positive because if you let the pressure get to you then you just won’t perform,” she explained.

While Malizia has garnered a number of accolades, such as 2008 OUA first-team all-star, 2008 team MVP and four-time athlete of the week; she’s very down-to-earth.

When asked what she does in her spare time, Malizia replied, “I don’t want to say procrastinating, but … okay yeah, procrastinating,” she snickered.

One of her favourite memories includes topping the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the finals last year during which she scored on a penalty kick.

“When Sadie (Anderson) scored the last penalty shot and we won and silenced all the heckling fans; to beat Ottawa on their home-field was just unreal,” said Malizia.

With such a promising career ahead of her, there’s no telling how far Malizia will go.

“I just love the game, I always want to be playing,” she said.