Going to training and being able to speak with the players afterward is something that I value and appreciate greatly. It’s not every day that you get to have a conversation with an Olympian, let alone a bronze medalist.
It may be her first year in the league, but Stephanie Labbé has made quite the splash here in DC. We at Backline Soccer do enjoy a good defense, and that starts with a great keeper.
I had a few questions for Labbé, and she was kind enough to answer them for me.
Backline Soccer (BS): With knowing that Kelsey Wys had dealt with the same situation last season, with Ashlyn Harris at the World Cup, and knowing the depth of this team, did it make it easier to go and concentrate on Canada before the break?
Stephanie Labbe (SL): For sure, I mean Kelsey is incredible, she’s always been ready. It’s always been a battle between us, nothing has ever been set in stone and we challenge each other all the time in training and I think that it’s a really good partnership for us. Whether it’s her or me in goal, I don’t think the team misses a beat. We both bring something different to the team, and it wasn’t even a thought in my mind.
BS: Canada was the only team that repeated as medalist in Rio. Does that give you a little bit of confidence going into the next cycle, knowing that it’s something that is not out of reach?
SL: Going in, there were doubts on us, and the team that won in London was a different team, and that was a team that got success through team connection. It wasn’t necessarily a team that out-performed other teams; they had the connection and that energy of never giving up, and they fought and battled through games and got results.
This time around going in, this was a much different team, we had so much more youth, and it was a different blend of youth and experience. We went out and out played top 5, top 6, teams on a consistent basis. For us to do that and do it back to back, it solidifies our spot in the world and shows we’re a top team and we’re a team to beat. I think it changes the mentality of Canadians and Canada soccer and proves that it wasn’t a fluke and we’ve earned this and we earned our spot on the top stage.
BS: How was your prep different from the World Cup, going into the Olympics as Canada’s number 1, especially after Erin McLeod went down very close to the Olympics?
SL: My individual prep wasn’t too much different. Going into the World Cup, it was a battle for who was going to play, going in, and I had that mentality the whole time. Going into this, yeah it was a bit different, but at the same time Sabrina and I still had to battle. Nothing was ever set in stone, once Erin was injured it was never my spot, it was something that Sabrina and I battled until the end with. I’m thankful for that because I think that that connection and that battle and competition that we had between each other just made us both so much stronger and pushed each other to new levels. I think that’s the reason why I was able to step out there with full confidence, knowing that I worked my butt off to earn that. And, at the same time, I had the confidence to go out and play well because she pushed me to be the best me.
BS: Who, after you, was the first person that you let hold your bronze medal?
SL: First person was my goalkeeper coach. Our staff don’t get medals, so we made sure that all of our staff got to feel the medal, because they’re just as much a part of it, and they earned it just as much as we did. So my goalkeeper coach got my medal. And when I got home, my mom, she had it.
BS: With clinching playoffs on Saturday, does it make it a little bit different, leading in and knowing you made the playoffs, so now you can work on the little things that maybe need to be tweaked, heading into the playoffs, over the next couple of games?
SL: For sure. [It] definitely takes a little bit of weight off your shoulders. That’s the first goal, to make playoffs. Now we have a new goal, and that is to make sure we stay in first and clinch that first spot. Of course, like I said, there is that weight off your shoulders of making the playoffs, so you know you’re in now, and now it’s about fine tuning the little things so we’re ready for the semifinal.