Playing fullback can be an adventure in any sport. In football, they're a battering ram. In rugby, they're reclusive outcasts. While playing soccer, Dinos captain Juliamai Giffen got to be an anthropologist.
Giffen's favourite memory as a Dino reaches back two years. It was the golden season for the Dinos: the national championship, Stephanie O'Neill's domination and a breakthrough year for the soccer program. It was the season when Giffen had to shut down a threat from a big University of Victoria player--a very big player.
"I had to mark their huge Amazon woman," said Giffen of her one-time opponent. "She was huge. Some people called her the Viking; I called her the Amazon."
Including her adventures with women warriors, Giffen had a fine career. Her fondest memories came along with the 1998 national championship, but in her final year with the Dinos there were good times as well. Calgary only let in three goals during the regular season, due in large part to Giffen's outstanding play at fullback.
"[I'll miss playing] Lethbridge, cause you get to trash talk most of the game," she smiled while reminiscing her provincial battles with Lethbridge and Alberta. "They're just really cheap. And we hate the U of A. The games are bloodbaths.
"I'll miss the team camaraderie; I love being out there and competing."
"I'll miss Jessie 'Captain D.W.' Norrie. I'll miss Hema 'Chocolate Rocket' Chengkalath too. I'll miss Katie [Lee] for her prowess. I'll miss Taryn's [Swiatek] focus."
"I'll miss all of them," finished Giffen. "I'm glad I came back for another year."
Next up for Juliamai is law school. Already possessing a BA in english, Giffen has her heart set on becoming a lawyer. Her future is cloudy, at least in competitive soccer. Alberta doesn't have a provincial program for players over 20 and opportunities for competitive play are limited. However, pessimism is not one of Giffen's qualities. First she plans to travel a little, and then she will see. There is plenty of rivalry in law school to keep her out of trouble.
"Maybe I'll coach," smiled Giffen. "But once you start, you don't get out."
The soccer program is in good shape for next year, but Giffen will be missed. She played every position except goaltender this season, and she anchored Calgary's league-leading defence. She also went out in style scoring a goal in the bronze medal win against UBC, her final game.
"Left foot, top corner," mused Giffen. "I don't know why, but I shot it with my left."
Dinos fans will miss this great player, but not to worry, her style rubbed off on her teammates. The Dinos will make another run at soccer glory, but it'll be without Giffen, who rode off into the sunset after a fine career.