The curtain has closed on Airdrie soccer player Sam Gagne's lengthy USPORTS career with the University of Calgary Dinos' men's soccer team.
Gagne joined the Dinos in 2017 after playing for the Calgary Foothills Soccer Club and the George McDougall Mustangs during his high-school years.
The 23-year-old full back said it was bittersweet to finally hang up the cleats this fall, after spending more than one-quarter of his life repping Dino red. He's technically spent the last six years with the U of C squad. (The maximum eligibility in post-secondary athletics in Canada is five years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season was cancelled).
“I feel like it’s a good close on a chapter of my life, but at the same time, it’s tough to say goodbye to these kinds of experiences,” he said.
“You kind of learn a lot about yourself. I look back at my first year in 2017, and you kind of realize how naïve and inexperienced you are in all aspects, both on and off the field. Now I look back and reflect.”
Personally, Gagne's university soccer career ended in disappointment after he suffered an ACL tear in early October, midway through the Dinos' 2022 campaign. Before that setback, he'd been a stalwart in the Dinos' back-four, mostly starting on the left side of defence.
The U of C went on to qualify for the Canada West final four this year, and after winning their semi-final, took the UBC Thunderbirds all the way to a penalty shootout in the conference championship match. Unfortunately for the Dinos, their first conference title in over 40 years wasn't in the cards – UBC won the shootout to book their berth to the national tournament instead.
“Had we won that game, we would have gone to nationals,” Gagne lamented. “It didn’t go the way we wanted to.”
The Airdrie native said a highlight of his time with the Dinos was the men's soccer team's successful 2019 season, which culminated with a silver medal at the Canada West tournament and a trip to the USPORTS national championships. Gagne played 15 games during that historic season, including 13 starts.
In all, the left-footed defender played 56 games for the Dinos in five seasons, scoring twice and recording two assists.
Even though he will be recovering from his recent knee injury for the next several months, Gagne said he doesn't intend to stop playing competitive soccer in the future. While he doesn't plan on pursuing any pro opportunities, he noted there are a few more ways university soccer players can continue playing at an elite level than they could in the past, such as the Canadian Premier League, a pro-level league that kicked off in 2019.
“Maybe if an opportunity presented itself with a [Canadian Premier League] program, I’d obviously pursue that, but again, my priority is just getting healthy again and then reassessing my options from there,” he said.
Away from the pitch, Gagne is in the final year of his business analytics program at the U of C, and is in the process of seeking internships after getting his degree next spring.
“I graduate from my last class in April 2023, so it worked out that my final year of soccer went hand-in-hand with my final year of education,” he said.