By Dale Cory
It’s not like Shania Kjenner is forced to play with one hand tied behind her back.
However, considering the position the 16-year-old plays in the game of soccer, she couldn’t be blamed for believing she has less than an equal chance.
Kjenner is the goalkeeper for Ponoka’s U-18 girls’ soccer team. During the July 8 to 10 weekend, blanking rival Lacombe 1-0, she led the Fusion to the bronze medal in the Alberta Soccer Association Tier IV Rural Championships in Ponoka.
“I’ve never been afraid of much, so balls flying at my face aren’t a big deal,” said Kjenner about the difficult position she plays. “My motto’s always been ‘sacrifice the body for the game’ and from the bruises and scrapes I get from challenging the other team for the ball it is true. I feel the goalie position is where my skills shine.”
Kjenner was in goal for that important bronze medal victory. All was good with Shania hanging a bronze medal around her neck.
It was a long way from the dejection she felt during a round robin game against Lac La Biche. Kjenner had to face five shooters during penalty kicks. Ponoka, which gave up a late tying goal, eventually lost 3-2 in the shootout.
For Kjenner, who had a couple of great saves, the heartbreak was shortlived.
A few weeks later, Kjenner found herself suiting up in a starting role for the Calgary Callies of the Alberta Major Soccer League (AMSL).
“We had a game that we had to travel up to Red Deer for Aug. 13. Due to injury and unavailability we had no goal keeper for the game against Red Deer City,” explained Dylan Savery, an assistant coach with the Callies. The AMSL is a travelling league featuring the top five per cent of Alberta’s male and female soccer players.
“We had exhausted asking all of our usual roster and youth call-ups. With the Callies’ head coach’s permission I was able to get in contact with the coach of the Ponoka U-18 Tier IV girls team that had won bronze at their youth provincials and enquire about the status of his goalie, Shania Kjenner.”
Two days later, Shania and her mom, Karen, made the drive to Red Deer. Kjenner had her CASA (Central Alberta Soccer Association) player card in hand, and signed AMSL youth trialist form filled out. That allowed her to play for Callies at Great Chief Park.
“My first thought was ‘I’m in. Yes I will play. I felt pretty special to be asked. It meant a chance to play soccer and I love the game,” said Kjenner after taking a few days to ponder her special evening on the soccer pitch. “I was definitely nervous that I might mess up but I was putting my faith in the Calgary Callies having a strong line of defence. I definitely had fun and it was an amazing experience. I am super happy that I played.”
Many of her new teammates and opponents play at either the University of Calgary or Mount Royal University.
This teen from Ponoka had suddenly been thrown into the role of playing the toughest position in her game against many older, wiser, and experienced players. It’s safe to say, Kjenner was about to face some of the top strikers in the province.
So, how did she do?
“Shania played great and made some awesome saves,” said Savery, whose Callies ended up losing 4-2 to the host team. “Shania played fearlessly and everyone in Ponoka should be proud of her.”
Kjenner, who is going into Grade 11 this year, has the desire to work in the medical field, possibly as a psychiatric nurse.
And of course, soccer is also in the cards, especially given her recent call up duties.
“I would love to play soccer at a university level,” summarized Kjenner. “Soccer is my favourite sport and that won’t change anytime soon.”