Dalhousie all-star goalkeeper Kate Fines looks forward to healthier sophomore season

Photo by Trevor MacMillan
Photo by Trevor MacMillan

By: Monty Mosher

The record will show that Halifax's Kate Fines had an exceptional year as the goalkeeper for the Dalhousie Tigers women's soccer team.

But sometimes numbers don't tell the whole story.

Fines, a first-year player out of Halifax West High School last fall, had six shutouts in 12 games for the Tigers. She finished with a record of 7-3-2 and had a .905 save percentage.

All of it added up to her selection as an AUS first-team all-star and conference rookie of the year at the end of the season. She was also named to the U Sports all-star rookie team.

Fines, 18, had all of the first-year adjustments any student faces entering university and varsity sports. She may have even had a bit more than others. She had some maturing to do, by her own admission, and her time-management skills needed some work.

No soccer for five months

But what few knew was her physical pain. She had hip soreness that wouldn't go away. Once the season ended, she didn't play any soccer for five months.

"You might not believe this but through the whole season I played through a hip injury," she said. "It was very painful."

She's not sure where the injury came from, but all signs point to overuse. She played last summer for Nova Scotia's bronze-medal winning team at the Canada Games in Winnipeg and she also played at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto.

From there, she vaulted into training camp with the Tigers and found herself playing more than she ever imagined for a rookie.

To play last season required physiotherapy three times a week and exercises she needed to do on her own twice a day.

It was hard to nail down the source of her discomfort. She was told it might be a torn labrum or there might be bone spurs. Perhaps it was a torn hip flexor.

In the end it was determined her psoas muscle, connecting the lower back to the thigh, was seriously inflamed, requiring two cortisone shots and physiotherapy that continues today.

Ball to the face

Fines travelled some, even to Europe, growing up as part of a military family. Her father was a submariner in the Canadian navy.

She played her first soccer at the age of six while living in B.C.

Her mom asked her to play goal one game. She got slammed in the face by a ball and got a bloody nose. Instead of making her run from the goal, she recalls that it cemented her desire to be the best keeper she could be.

She didn't always play goal in those early days, but by the time she played under-12 she was in the net to stay.

"I liked to scare people," she said of her love of the position. "I like the feeling of being in control of what happens."

She has played for Dalhousie coach Cindy Tye and assistant coach Gary Carter at other levels of soccer for many years, giving her a comfortable landing pad with the Tigers.

Stayed close to home

But her decision to stay home to attend university was only partially tied to that relationship. An illness in the family made her want to remain close to Halifax.

"Near the end of Grade 12 I really thought about it because my father has health problems," she said. "He's had two strokes within five years. If something were to happen I'd want to be home for it.

"I was looking for schools around Halifax and when Cindy and Gary reminded me that they were at Dal – they've been my coaches for about six years – so they were huge reasons I'm at Dal. It would have been harder for me to gain trust with a new coach."

Tye saw the "growing pains" in Fines.

"It is normal for first-year student athletes to come up against challenges," said Tye. "With Kate, we have seen a lot of growth in her taking on more responsibility and reaching out when she needs support. It is rewarding to watch our young players grow in confidence both in the classroom and on the field -- developing life skills that they take with them at graduation. 

"She was dealing with an injury that was frustrating for her trying to get back to play. She is learning about taking care of details that are required to perform and stay healthy. She is coming out the other side of that with her perseverance and her support system. (It has been) a lot of learning in one year that will make her stronger going forward."

Fines is back on the pitch this summer with Halifax City Soccer Club. Dalhousie's training camp begins again next month and Fines expects to be "10 times more comfortable."

"High school does not get you ready for university, whatsoever," she said. "The transition year was really tough. Now I know how to balance things better. There were some nights I was up to 5 a.m. doing homework."

She will also take on more leadership role on the team entering her second season. She will also embark on a new course of studies in law, justice and society, switching from psychology.

"A goalkeeper has to be a leader on the field. It doesn't matter if you are captain or not. You are the voice of the team."

Embracing her heritage

Fines has Metis roots through her father's side of the family in Labrador. She had little connection to her aboriginal culture growing up but has embraced it more in recent times and has adopted some traditional practices in her daily life.

She will be part of the organization for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax, bringing an athlete's perspective. She will also be an assistant coach.

"I never really practised the native culture. I never smudged. My family was never involved with it so I never put myself in those situations. But my boyfriend is full native and … we practise it and he teaches me the language. Going into the Indigenous Games it helped me find who I am."

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