Aug. 2, 2016
Sabrina D’Angelo has endured an emotional pendulum over the last several months when it comes to her international playing career, and now the former South Carolina All-American goalkeeper is thrilled to be playing for the Canadian national team in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. After originally making the team as the third goalkeeper and knowing the team would only take two net-minders to the Olympics, a change in fortune has the former Gamecock on her way to fulfilling a dream.
“With any big tournament there are some nerves, but right now it’s just excitement and eagerness to get there,” D’Angelo said. “So I’m excited, but not crazy nervous yet.”
Bouncing back and forth between her second professional season with the Western New York Flash of the National Women’s Soccer League and Team Canada, the Welland, Ontario, native received news she had made the team in rather undramatic fashion.
“It was a Monday morning, and I was checking my email and saw that I made the roster,” D’Angelo said. “I was so excited. I screamed and ran and told my roommate with the Flash, and then I called my parents right away.”
D’Angelo earned a spot on the national team roster back in January, and while she hoped to make the Olympic team, she knew it would be an uphill battle to make it to Rio. Then fate intervened.
“Going into qualifiers, I was the third goalkeeper,” D’Angelo said. “Unfortunately Erin McLeod, our number one goalkeeper hurt her knee, so that put Steph (Labbe) and me in competition for the number one and two spots.”
D’Angelo knows also about disappointment as her collegiate career was cut short due to a wrist injury during South Carolina’s record run to the NCAA Elite Eight as a senior in 2014. In fact, D’Angelo’s opportunity with the Canadian national team was soon put in jeopardy as another wrist injury kept her from competing for that number one spot, but she recently had surgery and should be ready to go when called upon during the Olympics.
“It definitely was a swing of emotions,” D’Angelo said. “I set my eyes on the number one spot, but the injury set me back a bit. I was just working to be the best I could with the Flash in the pro league and doing everything I could do to prepare for the Olympics.”
She has always been a professional in the way she approached things. She is so committed to reaching these kinds of goals.Shelley Smith, South Carolina Head Coach
She received congratulatory texts from South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith and associate head coach Jamie Smith, and credits her experience with the Gamecocks in helping her reach her post-college goals.
“This is my first big tournament with the senior team, and it’s always been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics and be a part of the Canadian national team,” D’Angelo said. “So for it to become a reality, it’s just amazing. I think it’s a reflection of all the hard work I’ve put in in the past and growing up. It’s a credit to all the coaches who helped me along the way, whether it was in Canada or Jamie and Shelley, who helped get me ready to go to the pros. They helped me mature as a player and a person.”
“I am thrilled for her because I know how much it means to her,” Smith said. “I know how hard she has worked. She has always been a professional in the way she approached things. She is so committed to reaching these kinds of goals. I’m thrilled for her to get there and represent our program as well as Canada.”
D’Angelo enjoyed a well-decorated career in her four seasons (2011-2014) with the Gamecocks before graduating in 2015. She ranks second in program history in shutouts (29) and goals against average (0.76), was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year twice, and she is the only Gamecock to earn two First-Team All-America honors.
Now that she has earned a chance to compete in the Olympics, D’Angelo can’t wait to soak up the experience.
“Everything will be exciting,” D’Angelo said. “Walking out with the team, hearing the national anthem, all of it. It is a business trip though, and we’re not even at the Olympics Village with the way it works for soccer. So we’ll miss the opening ceremonies. It is business, but just the fact that it’s the Olympics is so exciting.
“My eyes are set on doing everything I can to get that gold medal. It would be nice to see other events, but at the same time, I want the gold, so it’s all focused on soccer right now. I mean, they will incorporate some fun for us.”
While earning a starting nod and earning an Olympic medal are among her goals, D’Angelo can’t help but be a little giddy about representing her country and donning her team swag.
“Yeah, I am,” D’Angelo laughed. “I’m excited to be able to wear that stuff.”
For now, D’Angelo already has her mind set on the opposition as Canada is set to play Australia (Aug. 3), Zimbabwe (Aug. 6) and Germany (Aug. 9) in the group stage of Rio Women’s Olympic Soccer Tournament. The top-two teams from each group and the two-best third-place teams will qualify for the first knockout round. The semifinals are slated for Aug. 16, while the third-place game and finals will take place on Aug. 19.
“Australia is a very strong defensive team, so that will be a tough opening match,” D’Angelo said. “With Zimbabwe, they have nothing to lose. There is not a team you take lightly. The Germans are strong and always well organized, so they’ll be tough as well.”