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Calvin keeper sets new mark
By Derek Neice

Kayla SulzerAs the saying goes in sports, “the best offense is a good  defense.” In soccer, the goalkeeper is the spearhead  of that defense and for the Calvin women’s team this season, one of their key defensive leaders was goalkeeper Kayla Sulzer.

Hailing from St. Charles Mo., Sulzer recently concluded her senior year as a full-time starter for the first time after sharing duties the previous three seasons with a teammate. But her new responsibilities this fall came with a pressure-filled twist: there was no back-up keeper on the team. 

Sulzer responded to the challenge in 2009, playing in every minute of Calvin’s 22 games this year, compiling a goals-against-average of 0.54 while collecting 14 shutouts and a record of 16-5-1.

Her shutout total matched the Calvin single-season record as did her season victory total.

Sulzer concluded her Calvin career with a 35-8-6 record along with 25 shutouts. Her career goals-against-average of 0.64 ranks first among all Calvin goalkeepers, surpassing the previous record of 0.67 set by Cindy Feinauer from 1993 to 1996.

As a junior in 2008, she was named to the All-MIAA first team and to the Great Lakes All-Region third team.

When making the tough choice of where to go to college, Sulzer at first did not want to consider Calvin.

Kayla Sulzer headshot“I didn’t really want to come to Calvin initially, but my mom really wanted me to go. She made me apply, and it worked out financially, so here I am.”

And looking back, Sulzer knows she made the right decision: “I love it now; it has really been a blessing.”

Sulzer has been a goalie since she started playing soccer, and she got her start the same way most other goalies do — no one else on the team wanted to do it. She was always the one who volunteered to guard the goal when no one else would, and now more than ten years later, she is at the end of a successful collegiate career at that same position.

As a senior leader on the team, Sulzer talked about some of the struggles being that kind of leader can be, as well as the rewards it brings.

“It comes with both the happy times and the bad times. It’s hard for me not to put too much pressure on myself; I just have to be careful not to stress myself out and frustrate myself trying to do too much.”

“But it’s definitely an honor to be a leader,” she added, “I’m very proud of our team and I’m glad to help encourage them and lead any way I can.”

On a team mission trip to South America the summer before her sophomore year at Calvin, Sulzer injured her shoulder while playing in a game against a local club team. Keeping her motivation up after the injury was a challenging time, according to Sulzer.

“It was a growing experience just to be able to be there and not be able to play, just dealing with that. And I think God really got me through that, just being able to support the team, still being able to learn, still being able to use that trip to do His work, and not necessarily what I wanted to do.”

On the academic side of things, Sulzer also has a strong resumé. She has been a regular member of the Calvin Dean’s List and a three-time member of the MIAA Academic Honor Roll, maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or above.

Sulzer is a political science major with a Spanish minor and despite not knowing exactly what she wants to do after graduation, she will be in Washington D.C. this spring doing an internship. Her interests are focused on the relationship between politics and the media.