Airdronian defender plays key role for Dinos soccer team

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Sam Gagne has come a long way from kicking a ball around soccer pitches in Airdrie – the 19-year-old right back is entering his second season with the University of Calgary Dinos varsity men’s soccer team.

Gagne has been a key player for the Dinos since his first year, holding down a role as the squad’s starting right back.

Two games into the 2018 season, the Dinos soccer team is tied for third place in the prairie division of the Canada West conference of U SPORTS with a 1-1-0 record. The team opened its season at home Aug. 25 with a 4-2 loss against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, before blanking the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-0 the next day.

Gagne started both matches at right back, and was only subbed off in the final 15 minutes of each game.

The Airdronian said he feels confident heading into his sophomore season as a university player.

“Coming into this second year, I’m a bit more comfortable in my position and my role,” he said. “It takes out the nerves of your first year, so this year, I can just focus on my game and playing well.”

Gagne, left, runs to celebrate with his teammates after the Dinos take a 2-0 lead over the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Aug. 26.

Dinos head coach Brendan O’Connell said the young defender still has a lot to learn, but his athleticism and ability to play multiple positions have been important to the Dinos’ back four.

“He’s a great addition to our team,” O’Connell said.

“He’s versatile in the fact that he can play anywhere along the back four or along the right side, so we’re pleased to have him.”

In his first season with the Dinos, Gagne quickly solidified his role in the UofC’s starting 11. He suited up 15 times for the Dinos in 2017 as the team finished the 2017 season with a 7-6-1 record – good for third place in the prairie division.

By finishing third in the division, the UofC qualified for the Canada West playoffs, where the squad lost 6-2 in its first post-season contest to the Trinity Western University Spartans.

On a personal level, Gagne’s efforts throughout the 2017 season earned him a Canada West second team all-star nomination – a feat he said he hopes to accomplish again this year.

Gagne added he enjoys the level of competition U SPORTS offers.

Defender Sam Gagne wins a header for the Dinos against a University of Lethbridge player Aug. 26. The Dinos won the fixture 3-0, with Gagne starting at right back and playing 75 minutes.

“Every game, you’re forced to compete and you have to play well,” he said. “There are no bad teams in U SPORTS, so every game, you’re put to the test and have to give 100 per cent.”

Prior to signing his letter of intent for the Dinos, Gagne played for competitive teams in Calgary, including the Calgary Blizzard Soccer Club and the Foothills Soccer Club. While playing for Foothills, he collected a U18 provincial championship in summer 2017, followed by a silver medal with the team at the National Club Championships that fall.

Another accolade of Gagne’s was a silver medal with Team Alberta at the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

He also played for the George McDougall High School soccer team in Airdrie for three years, capturing the Rocky View Sports Association title with the Mustangs in 2014, as well as two runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017.

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