How did you spend your Thursday night? Cowboys? The Den? Homework?
One of your fellow students was a little busier, leading the Canadian women's soccer team to a huge World Cup upset over a potent Chinese squad. Former Dinos keeper Taryn Swiatek was vaulted from national obscurity to national hero Thu., Oct. 2 over 90 shutout minutes at PGE Park in Portland, Oregon.
"It was somewhat surprising to see her reach that level so quickly, but it didn't really catch me off guard," explained Dinos Head Coach Robin Slot. "Beyond talent, it's her dedication and commitment that got her where she is and it was great to see her perform so well."
A Calgary native and graduate of Western Canada High School, Swiatek turned heads following her grade 12 season, earning her an invite to the national team camp, and continued to impress during her time between the pipes for the Dinos from 1999-2001, solidifying a spot on the national roster. After sitting out the 2002 campaign with a knee injury, Swiatek took a year off school to spend time playing with the women's A-League's Ottawa Fury and preparing for both the World Cup and the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
As the Women's World Cup opened on Sat., Sept. 20, Swiatek was third on the Canadian goaltending depth chart. However, stellar performances in practice coupled with a poor outing by top keeper Karina LeBlanc against Germany in the opener saw her get the call for the Canucks' second match against Argentina.
"I wasn't expecting anything like it," explained the notoriously shy keeper. "As a third-stringer, I didn't think I would play."
Swiatek is a woman of few words, but her actions on the pitch speak volumes, and this was no exception. She led Canada to a 3-0 shut out, the first victory for any Canadian team, men or women, in World Cup action.
Another aggressive and dominant performance against Japan, a 3-1 triumph, secured Canada a berth in the quarterfinals and solidified Swiatek as the keeper they would win or lose with.
"It felt great," she enthused about leading Canada on their improbable run. "It's always a pleasure to help my team."
Going into the tournament, the Canadian side had the quarterfinals as their goal, however once they got a taste, it wasn't good enough. An expert header by striker-turned-fullback Charmaine Hooper in the seventh minute put Canada ahead and they survived an 80-minute onslaught by the Chinese attacking machine to earn a place in the semis against Sweden.
Despite coming up a goal short against a speedy and talented Swedish team, Swiatek and her teammates are proud of their accomplishments.
"I'm thrilled," the Calgarian beamed. "We've exceeded our expectations and, with a little luck, we could have won [against Sweden]."
With only the third-place match against the United States on Sat., Oct.11 remaining, it is unlikely Swiatek will get the start, so her focus shifts to the future.
"I'm looking forward to Olympic qualifying in February," Swiatek said of her immediate goals. "Next year I'd like to finish my degree and, depending on my course load, I would love to play Dinos again. It also depends on how much time I need to devote to the national team."