Kelsey Tikka achieves Canadian dream

File photo by Cristina Rucchetta

File photo by Cristina Rucchetta

Standing on a soccer field half way across the world, Kelsey Tikka looked up to a stadium of fans and heard her national anthem play.

That was the moment when the 21-year-old soccer player realized she wasn’t just representing her university.

She was representing Canada.

“It was definitively a life changing experience,” Tikka explained. “That you get to represent your country with the other girls on the field.”

Tikka, known as a powerhouse defender on Wilfrid Laurier University’s women’s soccer team, was selected as one of twenty Canadian athletes to represent the red and white in the 2013 Summer Universiade.

The Universiade, also referred to as the World University Games or the World Student Games, is an International multi-sport event that invites university students from all over the globe. This year, the games were held in Kazan, Russia and ran from July 6 to 17.

“I got a lot out of it as both a player and a person being there,” Tikka said.

“It was very neat meeting all sorts of people from so many different countries and girls across Canada, and even just to learn a little more about soccer.”

Tikka was the only player on Team Canada’s roster who hailed from the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division, and one of two from the OUA, along with Queen’s striker Jackie Tessier.

Ironically, many of Tikka’s newfound teammates were once opponents during her three seasons here at Laurier.

“It was a little difficult for that because a lot of them were from rival schools,” she laughed. “And all of them were from the top schools in Canada.”

Lucky for Tikka, the playing style of Team Canada’s head coach Liz Jepsen is very similar to what she is used to on Alumni Field here at Laurier.

Jepsen, originally from the University of Alberta, plays a very technical game with lots of passing.

Something that Tikka is more than happy to be apart of.

“It was easier to flow right into that,” explained the Thunder Bay native.

“And a lot of girls had played like this before.”

Despite an impressive roster with some of the best players from across the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), Canada’s performance did not meet expectations.

The team finished the tournament in 10th place with a 3-3 overall record, playing three games in the consolation bracket and ending the tournament with a 2-1 loss to the host team, Russia.

However, Tikka stood by her team despite their subpar results.

“Unfortunately we were drawn into the toughest pool,” Tikka said. “We thought that a final win against China would put us through.”

“I think we held our own.”

Tikka also raved about the amazing support that was showered on Canada throughout the entire tournament.

“A lot of people actually cheered for us in the events,” she explained. “It was such a friendly country so having them cheer for us regardless if we had fans actually from Canada there.”

Tikka was also able to go watch other team Canada events take place. Her favourite was watching the Canadian men’s soccer team advance in the tournament. “A lot of times Canadian soccer isn’t really recognized,” she said. “Going to their events, they beat Brazil and ended up doing really well, so their progress in the tournament was an eye opener.”

However, Tikka’s most profound moment during her experience as an international athlete came before she actually went to Russia.

It was a week prior, when Team Canada travelled to Poland for their training camp.

“I remember we walked out on the field and we had to stand there,” she said in hindsight. “That’s the moment when you realize that you made it to the spot that you’ve wanted to for so long.”

Now back in Canada and only two weeks shy of Laurier’s training camp, Tikka is looking forward to wearing that purple and gold again for another season.

“I’m ready to bring back what I learned over there,” she said. “And I’m very excited for this year’s team.”

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