Star freshman keeper ‘loves competition’

Defense wins championships – that’s a common phrase in the world of sports.

This past season, defense proved to be a bright spot in a season where the Detroit Titans women’s soccer team narrowly missed out on a playoff berth. That bright spot was Claudia Eustaquio, a freshman from Mississauga, Ontario.

Eustaquio was not handed the gloves the moment she stepped on campus, as there were three additional goalkeepers fighting for the spot, two of them with previous collegiate experience.

“I love the competition,” Eustaquio said. “It makes you work harder.”

Just last season, current sophomore Marina Manzo impressively allowed just 20 goals in 19 appearances.

Eustaquio was given the chance to step up when Manzo was sidelined due to an injury.

Eustaquio did not start playing goalkeeper the moment she started playing soccer. She played central midfield until she was 12 years old.

One day, the coach needed a goalkeeper and she was eager to try it out. The decision turned out to be a good one.

Her time spent playing on the field gave her better foot skills than most other keepers.

Junior Kristen Tobin noticed this with the freshman net minder.

“She is really good with her feet, so that made everyone on the field comfortable knowing we could use her if we needed to,” Tobin said.

Even with great technical ability, it can be extremely difficult for a freshman goalkeeper to have success at the collegiate level.

“It’s not always easy for freshmen to have a lot of confidence,” said junior Carley Rice. “However, she (Eustaquio) worked on her communication skills and became louder, which is something that we needed in the backline. I could see her confidence growing each game as well.”

That growth in confidence and the trust of her teammates propelled Eustaquio to the Horizon League Freshman of the Year title. In addition, she was named to the all-freshmen team. Both awards are voted upon by the league’s coaches.

Eustaquio posted a 1.27 goals against average, while making 53 saves and recording five shutouts, which was good enough for third best in the Horizon League.

Behind any such accomplishment are the countless hours of practice.

What does Eustaquio find most difficult about being a student-athlete?

“Managing your time for sure; balancing your homework with practice times and travel,” she said. “On top of that, you’re always so tired.”

Even after receiving the accolades that she did during her freshman campaign, Eustaquio does not plan on having a career in soccer after graduation from UDM.

As of now, the biochemistry major is leaning towards pursuing physiotherapy.