Sophie de Goede named Journal’s Female Athlete of the Year

Dual-sport athlete garners personal, team successes

De Goede is hard to slow down.

As Queen’s only standing dual-sport varsity athlete, The Journal has selected women’s rugby and basketball player Sophie de Goede as its Female Athlete of the Year for the 2019-2020 season.

It was evident almost from the moment that the Victoria, B.C. native took her first step on tricolour soil in 2017 that Queen’s had landed one of the brightest stars in the history of Gaels athletics.

Since then, personal and team achievements have been the hallmark of her career. Balancing two sports, the third-year commerce student has to stick to a tight schedule to ensure success in both athletics and academics.

“Usually I’ll wake up early to lift and/ or have a skills session, then go to class, play pick-up at lunch if I can, and go to both practices in the evening” explained de Goede in an interview with The Journal.

“It can be tiring at times,” she admitted, “but I genuinely love playing both sports […] more often than not, the highlight of my day [is] getting to see my friends at [practice].”

Even so, it’s easy to expect the No. 8 back row to get deterred in moments of exhaustion. Not so.

“It helps [to go] back and forth between sports,” claimed de Goede. “I can always change up my focus if I’m feeling burnt out in one … that really helps me stay motivated.”

The decision to name de Goede as Female Athlete of the Year came down to her extraordinary personal success that helped push both of her teams towards monumental seasons.

In rugby, the former OUA and U SPORTS rookie of the year has not allowed her early success to deter her drive. De Goede finished the 2019 OUA regular season with the most individual points in the league, her total of 76 comprised of three tries, 26 conversions, and three penalty goals. Combined with her points from year one and two, de Goede now stands as the second leading scorer in Queen’s women’s rugby history, and with more rugby to play, the No. 8 is in a comfortable position to take over the top spot.

With de Goede at the head of the pack, the Gaels accomplished an undefeated regular and playoff OUA season, including a notable 135-0 win against Western, inevitably clinching the OUA championship for the second time in program history.

“It’s pretty indescribable to be honest. [Having] such a strong performance in the final on our home pitch in front of friends and family was something I won’t forget.”

The Gaels sustained a top-three national ranking for the entire season, finding themselves in first place for three out of the seven weeks. This marked the first time the Gaels have ranked first in the nation in program history.

After earning her second straight OUA player of the year (Shiels Division) nod, de Goede had her eyes set on a national gold—her Gaels were going into the U SPORTS tournament ranked first in the nation.

Although the Gaels would eventually fall 22-14 to the Laval Rouge et Or in the gold medal game, their closest match of the season, the U SPORTS silver was still historical.

De Goede rounded out the season with a first-team All-Canadian nod, making this her third consecutive year of U SPORTS honours, the most by any Gael.

However, celebrations for de Goede were not long-lasting, as she quickly transitioned into basketball’s regular season having not played in any exhibition games.

With an average of 21.3 minutes per game in the 2019-2020 season, de Goede shot an impressive 45.6 per cent from the field and 70.8 per cent from the foul line, rounding out her dominant play with an average of 8.3 rebounds. The forward averaged 12.5 points per game, the second-highest for the Tricolour.

Queen’s was in the national rankings for 12 of the potential 14 weeks, and they received honourable mentions for the other two. 

The Gaels finished third in the OUA East with a regular season record of 15-7, having lost a tie-break for the second-place spot to Carleton on points differential. 

In recent years, the first-round playoff game has proved a challenge for Queen’s—their past two seasons ended with losses on home court. However, the Gaels squashed the curse with a dominant 78-50 win against the Lakers. 

“We [had] some really strong performances in both sports this year […] The common denominator was how tight-knit the teams were,” said de Goede. 

“There’s a special trust factor and a willingness to sacrifice for your teammates that comes when they become your best friends outside of sport.”

Even after such a monumental season, de Goede has her sights set on next year’s perfect storm: both rugby and basketball’s U SPORTS national tournaments are being hosted at Queen’s.  

“There is certainly an added spark of motivation that comes with knowing you’ll have the chance to win a banner at home.”

“Both of [the] teams, [rugby and basketball], prepare with the same intensity and championship mentality every season because we are always very competitive within our leagues and the entire country […] I’m really looking forward to the opportunity for us to become champions in [the home] setting.”

De Goede’s place in Tricolour history is not lost on her, and she hopes that her current success amplifies the efforts of women in sport in general. 

“I’m very thankful for the efforts [Queen’s has] made to give both our women’s rugby and basketball teams the promotion they’ve earned,” de Goede said. “There is still plenty of room for women’s sport to grow and to receive the same recognition as the men’s game […] I just see this as even further motivation for us to push boundaries and to increase our efforts.”

“I’m also very cognizant of the women who came before us and who brought female sport to the place it is now,” concluded de Goede. “I could not be more grateful to our alumni for their contributions and I hope our generation can continue to do the same.”

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