July 22, 2010

GETTING TO KNOW: MYRIAM BOUCHARD

Maybe more so than any country, ice hockey and Canada are synonymous. The Holy Trinity for Canadians consists of Gretzky, Howe and Lemieux.

But something that many do not know is that the land of Bryan Adams, Celine Deon and Michael J. Fox is a rising soccer power thanks to young stars like Bouchard.  

"Soccer has always been a family affair for me," she said. "I've been kicking around a soccer ball for as long as I could remember, that's why I love it so much, it's always been a part of my life."

In fact, there were more youth soccer players in Canada than ice hockey players this past year. However, in a poll released in 2009, 64 percent of Canadians views soccer as more of a recreational sport than a chance to compete on the international level.

"Soccer has evolved a lot since I started playing," Bouchard said. "However, there is still a lot of evolving to do and a lot of that has to do with subventions. Both the men's and women's side need more support in order for Canadian soccer to take the next step."

Bouchard has been a part of the Canadian Soccer Association for years and is now on the Women's National Team roster, traveling with the squad for a friendly against the Germans earlier this summer.

"It's such a rush every time I get to play for my country," she said. "It is a great honor to be wearing that jersey and have the chance to represent your family, friends and people that don't even know you but still look up to you. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had."

Her journey to VCU started at Cardinal Roy High School, when she was courted by then-VCU coaches Denise Schilte-Brown and Chris Brown to solidify the center back position.

"The coaches were looking for a center back and with the success of the program, it was really appealing to me," Bouchard said. "I thought it would be a great adventure and so I went for it."

The Rams have been grateful for that decision ever since as Bouchard serving as an anchor to the back line for three seasons, notching two All-CAA accolades.

"Myriam is the quintessential leader, both on and off the field," Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak said. "She has an unbelievable toughness about her that is key to playing the center back position. Her dedication and work ethic are unmatched and we are privileged to be her coaches."

Roberts Sahaydak and her husband, Tim, took over the Rams after Bouchard's first year and have helped the Quebec City, Quebec native progress even further along than even she expected.

"Having coaches that have played at the highest level have helped me so much not only as a player, but a person," Bouchard said. "They know what I'm going through at the international level and what I need to do to get to that next step. I'm very thankful to have them as my coaches."

This fall will be the final time Bouchard dons the Black & Gold jersey, capping off a career that will go down as one of the best defensive careers in the program's history.

"The experience of wearing the VCU jersey was everything I expected and more," she said. "I'm sad thinking my college years are almost over, I could keep going to school and play soccer for years and years."

The Rams would sure welcome Bouchard for years and years, but unfortunately the NCAA frowns upon that. For now, the VCU faithful will sit back and enjoy one last year of her toughness and athleticism in the Black & Gold before she heads back to Canada to don the red Maple Leaf. 

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