Tuesday, July 23, 2024

uOttawa Gee-Gees keep local goalkeeping train chugging with addition of OSU’s Laura Salgado

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By Jackson Starr

There are certain elements of goalkeeping that separate the good ones from the great ones. Yes, you have to be athletic, agile, quick on your feet and smart in order to best fulfill your duties.

But aspects like leadership, communication and taking charge of a situation in order to help your team succeed are also equally, if not even more crucial.

“I’d probably say (communication is) the most important part,” signals incoming University of Ottawa Gee-Gees keeper Laura Salgado. “A great goalkeeper will know how to prevent the good attacking plays from the opposition. Being able to communicate with not just your back four but your midfielders and maybe your wingers to prevent some plays – it’s almost better to prevent a shot than having to save it.”

Salgado has been playing soccer since she was four years old, but fell in love with goalkeeping when she first tried the position at age 11. Half her career later, the Ottawa South United Force player has earned the opportunity to play for one of Canada’s strongest university women’s soccer programs with uOttawa.

“There’s so much that goes into goalkeeping that I really like the challenge,” Salgado explains. “Staying focused for 90 minutes and being able to make that one save – I love how much of an impact the goalkeeper can have, even though they’re not doing a lot or getting the ball a lot. They can stay in the game with communication, leadership, and I always liked being involved.”

Salgado’s love for goalkeeping grew while watching international soccer. She kept a close eye on stars like Portugal’s Rui Patriciu and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon for clues behind their success. But she also found plenty of inspiration within the local goalkeeping community.

“We’re kind of like a family,” Salgado highlights. “As a position we’re quite isolated, and we are not like anyone on the team, so sometimes it’s hard to connect with people on a team in a certain way. In goalkeeper training, we’re all in the same situation and we bond over that.”

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Salgado has enjoyed a standout career with the Force, making her mark on several dominant OSU Ontario Player Development League squads. She led the OPDL in clean sheets in 2021 during her under-15 season, and twice reached OPDL Charity Shield finals, only to fall in penalty kicks on both occasions.

Laura Salgado. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Salgado says that her experiences at OSU have helped her in many ways, both on and off the pitch.

“It’s a very intense atmosphere,” notes the Holy Trinity Catholic High School senior. “It made me better at being in difficult situations because I knew how to almost regulate it. Staying calm in intense situations and [being able] to step up and do the best I can.”

Salgado has also enjoyed coaching some of the club’s younger players in recent years.

“I love being able to teach too,” indicates the future uOttawa statistics student. “It makes me think about other ways I can go about situations (in games). I see it in a broader perspective because the kids ask a lot of questions, so it gets me thinking too, and honestly, all around, they help me help them and they help me and my game too.”

Salgado has appreciated getting to work under goalkeeping coach David Bellemare within the welcoming, comforting and intense training space he’s crafted at OSU, she details. The pair will continue to work together at uOttawa, much to the delight of Bellemare, who’s coached with the Gee-Gees for two decades.

“Laura’s always been an aggressive goalkeeper,” reflects Bellemare, who always manages to have a star local keeper lined up for the Gee-Gees, including Juliann Lacasse and Margot Shore most recently.

“Very engaged in her own development,” he continues. “She’s doing a lot of video analysis and that’s helped her game a lot. A very good student of the game. I think that’s what has helped her progress over the course of the years.”

Bellemare also sees room for Salgado to grow further with the Gee-Gees, who have won back-to-back Ontario titles and were 2018 national champions.

“That’s the beauty of university,” he adds. “We have them for four or five years… Laura still has potential to grow. A lot of goalkeepers when they come, you stretch their limits a bit and they don’t have much to improve. I think Laura still has a lot of places where she can improve.”

Salgado understands it is going to be a challenge breaking into a program that already has several strong established goalkeepers, but she’s looking forward to taking it on.

“I’m so excited,” underlines Salgado, who will also have a member of her back line at OSU join her at uOttawa in defender Sophia Meireles. “I’m so excited and it hasn’t even resonated with me completely.

“They have a great atmosphere. I’m so excited to work with (head coach) Steve (Johnson) and to keep working with Dave. I’m just excited to keep going with my soccer career at such a good team.”

Read More of our 2024 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-High-School-Best-2024

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