Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The same things can be said of all of Dean Cordeiro's captains, no matter who is wearing the armband in a long line of succession over the years.
Selfless. Humble. Poised. Experienced. Great character. True leader. Team first.
So, when it came time for the MacEwan Griffins women's soccer head coach to name a replacement for Jamie Erickson, who graduated after the 2019-20 season, the answer was obvious.
Samantha Gouveia has earned the honour of wearing the armband as the Griffins prepare to kick off the 2021 Canada West season against cross-town rival Alberta on Saturday (12 p.m., Clareview Stadium, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
The talented centre-back, groomed for a leadership role over six years at MacEwan, heads into her final season of eligibility as the unquestioned leader of a young Griffins team.
"We've had a history of just amazing student-athletes who've represented our program in leadership roles and those that have had the honour of being our captain," said Cordeiro. "Everything Sammy does is about the team. When we recruited her from Day 1 to now, she's so selfless, so humble. It's all about the team, all about winning. She doesn't care for any attention or to be identified. She just wants to go out there and be a piece of the puzzle."
And make no mistake, she's a major piece of the puzzle, perhaps even the linchpin in such a key role in front of her own team's goal.
"There's no better centre-back, for me, in the league," said Cordeiro. "So, to have someone with that much experience, with all the successes she's had over the years and now being in that position to lead the team, we're very excited about that."
Samantha Gouveia delivers a pass during non-conference action against UNBC on Aug. 29 (Chris Piggott photo).
Gouveia is coming off a summer playing for the St. Albert Impact in their inaugural United Women's Soccer Leagues season where she played every minute of every game, earning a prestigious Iron Woman award.
If preseason action is any indication, particularly during a 2-0 shutout of Trinity Western on Aug. 20 where her poise on the back end completely erased the best the Spartans could muster, she will play a similar workhorse role with the Griffins in 2021.
"I think it's important to stay calm and collected being the captain now," said Gouveia. "The girls look up to me.
"As long as the team believes in each other like I believe in them, we're going to make it to the big show and get what we want."
Although she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree last spring, Gouveia still had a year of eligibility left with a season lost to the pandemic, so it was a no-brainer to return for the fall semester to finish off her Griffins career in style.
"I think it's an understatement to say it means the world," she said of one last opportunity with the Griffins. "I knew that I had to come back and be with the team. This team is my top priority. Together we're unstoppable. In the past few years, we've seen our progression. We're getting closer and closer to the big show.
"When you have this gut feeling that you know this is the one, I knew I had to come back. Obviously my (fellow graduating senior) teammates – Salma Kamel, Kaylin Hermanutz and Meagan Lemoine – if one of us is in, we're all in, so we knew we were coming back."
Redemption is on the mind of all of the Griffins' veterans after they were denied the program's first U SPORTS national championship berth in 2019 by the slimmest of margins – in a penalty shootout loss to Calgary during the Final Four they hosted.
But there's an extra bounce-back in Gouveia's step after an injury that season cost her all but six games of the campaign, including the entire playoff run.
"Unquestionably, last season was tough for me," she said. "We had an incredible team back in 2019, as well. Obviously, it was another chance to make it to nationals. It was tough to continue to bring up that spirit on the sidelines. I did what I had to do, whether that being bringing out the drum or stuff like that.
"But over the past year and a half here, I've worked on my game, focusing on weaknesses, continuing to improve strengths and I really used the summer months to sharpen up my attributes and just continue to rise from there."
Cordeiro said Gouveia's contributions are stellar on both sides of the ball.
"She's a quarterback for us back there in the buildup phase," he said. "When Sammy's on the ball, it's like having Tom Brady on the ball. Whether it's a short five-yard pass or whether she wants to bypass and hit somebody on the weak side with a 20-30 yard dime, she puts it right on their foot.
"So, to have somebody that can dissect the opponent's line, pick people out and advance platforms for us, you can't take that for granted. There's very few people who can do what Sammy does back there. To have somebody that comfortable on the ball – nothing phases her, she's seen it all – building up your play, it's something we're very blessed to have."