Stephanie Labbe: The “double life” of a national team keeper

Since the end of the 2009 Damallsvenskan season, we, Piteå IF, have been looking forward to our first game back in the Damallsvenskan. We had a very successful 2009, winning Division 1, and earning our spot back in the top league. It was a year of very hard work, but it paid off, and our moment is here. We had our first game back in the league on Wednesday vs. Linköping, away. They finished among the top of the table last year, and were recently knocked out of the Champions League in the semifinal. They are a strong, fast, talented team, that we knew would be very tough, not only from their recent successes, but from playing them two years ago.

We came out, and fought hard. There were ups and downs for us, playing with some nerves, and excitement that the moment was finally here. We created some great goal chances throughout the game, missing a few really big ones. The game ended, 1-1, and we were more than pleased to be going home with a point against one of the top teams in the league. We showed amazing character in our team, fighting til the final moments and getting a goal in the 84th minute. We took our point, packed our bags, and headed back to Piteå to start our preparations for this Sunday’s home opener against Dalsjöfors, the other newcomer to the Damallsvenskan this year. It is a huge game for us, and of course it is very exciting to be playing at home, where we have unbelievable support, and where we won the “best attendance” award in 2009 while in the top division. I am very excited to play in that atmosphere again!

Switching over to my “double-life,” there are 71 days until the start of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and in my mind, that is nothing. Every day counts, and knowing that I am missing some camp with the National Team to be here playing games and getting game experience in Piteå only means I have to do a lot of extra training on my own, to make sure I stay in my top shape to fight for a starting spot in the World Cup. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the World Cup, and the amazing opportunity we have ahead of us. We have worked so hard, and come so far. We have overcome obstacles that have been in our way, and battled through many ups and downs both off the field and on. Our team has never been so close-knit as we are right now, and I know that is going to be a huge strength for us when our moment to shine arrives. Until then, we have to put in the work, refine our strengths, minimize our weaknesses, and perfect our game plans. 71 days…nothing, more nothing less…

Stephanie Labbe is a keeper for the Canadian Women’s National Team and Piteå IF of Damallsvenskan.