Anne Marie Ulliac has been busy since her time wearing Red Deer Renegades colours last summer.
The 18-year-old goalkeeper recently completed her first season playing NCAA Div. II soccer for the Adelphi University Panthers in Garden City, New York.
“It was really different being down in the U.S.,” said the former starting goalkeeper for the Renegades’ Alberta Major Soccer League team of her first year of experience playing collegiate soccer.
“It’s a lot more intensity and probably a faster pace than Major League in Canada.”
Ulliac, who grew up in Edmonton, joined the newly-formed Renegades women’s team for the outdoor soccer season last summer after spending some time playing for Edmonton Victoria’s second team in an effort to get more first team experience.
“All of the teams in Edmonton are pretty set in their rosters, sort of. They have girls that have been playing there for a long time. But with (Red Deer City Soccer Association President) Paul (Morigeau) trying to build a new team, it was really like a new opportunity to get a lot of playing time and play against some of the top players and get ready for my college season in the fall,” Ulliac recalled, adding she values her time with the Renegades’ main squad.
“It was really great. I’m from Edmonton and I started playing competitive soccer when I was in Grade 11, so I trained with all of the Major League Clubs in Edmonton. I really felt that the Renegades, what Paul is trying to build — he’s really trying to build a good program.”
Being able to log that playing time in her final season before heading off to college proved fruitful for Ulliac, as she helped Adelphi to the NorthEast-10 (NE-10) Conference Championship, allowing just 14 goals in 2,097 minutes played and posting a conference-low 0.60 goals against average.
Her efforts during the season earned her the NE-10 Goalkeeper of the Year Award and a selection to the NE-10 All-Conference First Team.
“The things that I’m always working on — there’s always lots of technical things like footwork, catching and stuff — but more importantly than that I focus a lot on the sports psychology side of it. So how you’re mentally ready for the game, how you prepare before the game,” said Ulliac of how she maintains her focus throughout the season.
Incidentally, the 2,097:30 of field time that Ulliac logged with Adelphi this season was the third highest of any NCAA Div. II keeper on the league’s Yearly National Rankings.
The goalkeeper will be spending this year’s outdoor season south of the border after signing with the New England Mutiny of the newly-formed United Women’s Soccer league.
The UWS is the highest level of amateur women’s competition in the U.S.
“I knew that I really wanted to stay in the U.S. and play, because that’s where all of the exposure is and there’s tons of really good players here,” said Ulliac.
“It’ll be a really good chance to play against some of the top Division 1 players and train with them too and get more experience at that level.”
Ulliac said that while she doesn’t expect to play a starting role on the Mutiny’s main squad this season, she does hope to start with the team’s U20 group.
“I know they have one returning goalkeeper who’s been with them for awhile, so I’m hoping to be able to compete and get a little bit of experience in the UWS and then hopefully have a starting role on their under-20 team.
“So I’ll get lots of game experience but still be able to train with the top players and watch how that game goes.”
Ulliac’s achievements over the past year are perhaps made even more impressive by the fact that she didn’t start playing soccer competitively until Grade 11.
“I always was a very competitive person and I just decided it was time to try something new,” she recalled.
At the time, Ulliac was by no means new to the sport. She had played community soccer since she was four-years-old before joining a Tier 3 Club team with the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association for her first competitive season. Shortly afterwards, she joined Edmonton Victoria and split time between the club’s Tier 1 and Major League squads.
“It just really accelerated from there. In February of Grade 11 I started talking to some American schools because I decided that’s where I wanted to play. And then in the fall of Grade 12, that’s when I visited a bunch of American schools and made my decision about Adelphi.
“It’s a long road but in a very short period of time, is what I always say,” she laughed.
When asked what she plans to do after finishing her college education, the exercise science major was pretty certain of her path forward.
“I’d really like to play professionally after college. I know that there’s lots more opportunities opening up in the women’s game now.”
With professional women’s leagues like the National Women’s Soccer League popping up all over the globe, Ulliac is confident that she can find somewhere to play, but she noted that it would be nice to be able to stick close to home.
“There’s always the hope that I can get a call up to a Canada camp in the future and get involved with that program.”