by David Sproull
It is hard to miss the friendly and confident vibe that Seneca Sting women’s soccer midfielder Chantel Cifuentes exudes. Although official practices don’t start until August, the team has already been hard at work playing indoor tournaments to help the players gel and to get all the systems down
Last year was a stand out season for her connecting for seven goals in ten games.
This sets high expectations for Cifuentes in her fifth and final season with the sting.
She feels the team could be champions this year and that she could play a major role in this happening.
Getting to this point wasn’t always easy though.
The first set back was the tragic loss of her best friend Makalah to suicide three years ago.
“We knew each other like the back of our hands, she knew everything there was to know. We had the same passions enjoyed sports, music. We were the type of best friends that you’d see in TV shows, the ones that could finish each other sentences, know what ones thinking without saying anything. We fit together like a puzzle.”
In addition to this she has suffered four serious concussions, the most recent in 2017 and even to this day must be cautious to avoid blows to the head.
Because of her loss and the string of injuries, Cifuentes says that for two of the five years she has been playing she had lost her passion for the game and was going through the motions.
There are a few things that happened to change that. First came from within herself when she realized that that soccer pitch was the
“Place I get to be me, and there’s no outline of how to be. I get to be the player I want to, and develop myself the way I want to.”
As for outside influences, her dad comes to every one of her games, and she has a coach willing to push her to try new things and challenge her.
Cifuentes went from being a defender to a more offensive role in the midfield.
“I used to be the person who didn’t really believe in myself. I used to always just pass the ball really quick, and never take a risk. I came here and he just gave me the opportunity to take risk and try some new things”
She found where once she was hesitant she was now beating opponents one on one.
Cifuentes now sees herself as a leader.
Chantel Cifuentes scores in a game against Algonquin Thunder Sept 29th, 2018. Video courtesy of Seneca Sting
The future for her after the Sting is not certain but she does plan to come back with an Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) backed coaching program to work as an assistant coach.
When asked if she would rule out playing for the national team, she flashes a smile and says “absolutely not” and that she has her eye on some possible overseas opportunities.
As for now though, Cifuentes has her mind set on the upcoming season.
“Ultimately I just want to leave on a good note and feel really good about the season I played and just leaving the girls with a good message. I want them to know it takes really hard work to get to where we want to be. We want to be champions this year and to feel like all the hard work has paid off.”
The Sting women’s soccer season starts in the second week of September.