Thursday, 03 October 2013 11:00

Kaity Letwiniuk goes from a star in Swift Current to one in Medicine Hat

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It's a bright sunny day at the Medicine Hat College’s soccer pitch which is well maintained. Other than being surrounded by some trees, it’s in a relatively open field near the small college’s campus.

It’s a little over 200 kilometres away from her Swift Current home for Rattlers’ striker Kaity Letwiniuk. Other than her father (standing noticeably in his white Swift Current Broncos’ golf shirt) many of the team’s fans are friends and family from Medicine Hat where much of the women’s soccer team’s roster calls home.
However, like during those years in Swift Current, Letwiniuk already has fans.
Many shouts of encouragement for Letwiniuk comes from the fans who make comments about her play during a game Sept. 14 as the Rattlers play against an overmatched Olds College Broncos’ team in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference action.
Letwiniuk breaks past an Olds defender and takes a shot which goalie Vanessa Lea is able to corral. Another opportunity and Letwiniuk rotates 180 degrees and twists her leg behind her while she kicks the ball with her back facing towards the net. It would’ve been one of those highlight reel goals except it trickled wide.
 “Keep going Kaity!” screams a woman comfortable in her lawnchair. Like those in Swift Current, the fans murmured amongst themselves how it was just a matter of time before the tall striker would score.
In this case, it was just a matter of moments. Letwiniuk scored twice in the four-nil game as Medicine Hat looked dominant. The next day in Calgary, she scored two more against SAIT. This past weekend, Letwiniuk scored, you guessed it, two goals, against the Red Deer Queens Sept. 28 and then Sept. 29, she scored a clutch, game-winning goal off of a penalty shot to give the Rattlers a 3-2 win over Lakehead College Rustlers. Under Rattlers’ head coach Jim Loughlin, the women’s team record is now 6-1 and they already have first place clinched. Loughlin’s squad has outscored their opposition 21-4.
Last season, Letwiniuk had five goals as a rookie which was no small feat. So far this ACAC season, she has eight goals in seven games. Her closest teammates have two goals each.
Letwiniuk says she started playing soccer in Swift Current at the age of six. First playing in house league and then onto the more competitive U-10 teams until finally high school and the Swift Current United club team.
She attributes her strong base in soccer to her family where two older siblings played soccer and to familiarity with teammates and the coaches.
“I think it was the coaching,” explains Letwiniuk who adds besides family, stuck with it because it was a good social activity.  “I had Bill Thomas as a coach from when I was eight years old. All my friends were in it since I was eight and we were basically the same team since I was eight.”
The fact she and her friends grew together as a team bred success as years passed. By the time they hit high school with coaches Dale Perry and Steven Mah, the group was dominating. They would regularly beat their opponents in the Moose Jaw High School Soccer League by huge margins, even in the double digits. It was then Letwiniuk pushed herself to be the best she could.
“In Grade 10, I wanted it so much more,” says Letwiniuk who notes Perry and Mah were great mentors.
She also credits Perry for bringing a Medicine Hat College scout to Swift Current which allowed her to be recruited. She knew in Grade 12 she was going to Medicine Hat to play soccer and for that she is grateful.
“I was offered a spot and I looked at it,” explains Letwiniuk. “The campus wasn’t as big, it was close to home and I knew a lot of people who were here already.”
Plus, she was coming into a good program with Loughlin as coach. Letwiniuk joined the Rattlers for the 2012 season following a 2011 campaign where the women’s soccer team had four of the ACAC’s Top 9 scorers in 2011 and a 6-2-2 record.
It was an adjustment for Letwiniuk on and off the pitch.
Off the pitch, there was the regular adjustment any high-school student has with living on her own, away from home, different system of school and in this case, a different type of attention to health and fitness which was demanded by the college coaches.
“There’s a commitment and intensity to everything away from the soccer field,” says Letwiniuk who adds one has to eat right, get enough rest and work out regularly. “Be at practice ready to go and half an hour early to do all of your stretches. That was a lot different, especially the fitness.”
Letwiniuk adds it was different too coming to a team in which she knew none of her teammates, unlike the first dozen or so years of soccer.
“You had to learn and understand all of the other players’ abilities, but we were like a family right away (last year),” explains the Swift Current native.  “It was really hard at first and I was not completely sure at the start (that she could be successful or get used to being someplace new).”
On the pitch, it was definitely a lot different too. It was not uncommon for Letwiniuk or her high-school teammates to score regularly two or more goals in a game. Teammates including Brittany Schafer, Sydney Thomas and Karli Wong used to pile on the stats in high school.
The club U18 team won three straight Division 2 provincial indoor titles, the last one in 2012.
Unfortunately, while the talented high-chool team would wipe out their competition during the year, it wouldn’t serve them well once provincials hit. The team would face stiffer competition. They would be better than those teams, but because of not facing adversity, would have some problems in the final tournament of the year. Take for example in 2011, when one of the most dominant Arden teams in memory went to Prince Albert for the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association provincial tournament, and all they could muster was a fourth place finish.
The strategy was a lot different back then than what it is in college.
“Usually in high school it was just a matter of getting the ball up front and then you just got to it and see what happens,” explains Letwiniuk. “In college, you use everyone on the field. In high school, I could use my speed more. Now, everyone is fast so you have to think more.”
Letwiniuk says the strategy-side and thinking about what one is supposed to do is the most challenging including not thinking too much because knowing where to go without the ball, knowing who to pass the ball to in certain situations and knowing how to draw penalties is all part and parcel of a whole new set of strategies which are part of collegiate play.
Letwiniuk says the mental preparation is definitely different. She says the Rattlers’motto this year is  “be the change  which points to dedication to the team.”
Things haven’t changed too much. Letwiniuk is still successful and is already looking to the future. She may head to Saskatoon next year to take an education course at the University of Saskatchewan. She always wanted to have to do something with sports hence the kinesiology major in Medicine Hat.
Now after years of being taught and influenced so much by great teachers such as her family, Thomas, Perry and Mah, she’s ready to do the same herself. She will have a lot of knowledge to offer any class or sports team after garnering so much in Swift Current and now Medicine Hat.
(College Corner is a weekly feature where Prairie Post writers will be profiling people, programs, events and issues facing colleges within our coverage area).

Read 11148 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 October 2013 09:33
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor