When Kristen Funk arrived in Langley, she was just hoping to push for some playing time as the keeper for the Trinity Western Spartans women’s soccer team.
Four years later, her name is etched in the program’s record books.
No goalkeeper in the program’s history has made as many saves as the fourth-year keeper.
She still has one season of eligibility remaining.
In fact, this past season, the fourth-year student played every minute in goal during Canada West conference play.
“When I got here, I was just going to work my hardest to try and start,” she said about arriving from Calgary to the Trinity Western campus in time for the 2008 soccer season.
“I was just striving to get some playing time; I didn’t know if I would or not.”
In four seasons in the Spartan uniform, Funk has stopped 227 shots, surpassing former Spartan Angela Garriott, who saved 216 shots during her tenure.
And regardless of how big they are — she backstopped the team to a victory in penalty kicks in the 2009 national championship game as well as in the national championship semifinal game the year before — there is no real description Funk can offer.
“You are in the zone and it just happens,” she said. “Your body just reacts. You are not thinking ‘I need to make this save,’ it is just that your body knows what are ready to do.”
One thing is clear: a save definitely gets the adrenalin pumping.
“After you make a save, your heart is just racing and you feel almost shaky,” she said.
Funk’s introduction to goalkeeping came when she was nine or 10 years old when a parent on the team asked if anyone wanted to give the position a try. Funk volunteered, enjoyed it and spent the next few years splitting time between the crease and her other position, as a centre-defender.
When she was 14, a coach made her choose and also encouraged her to seriously consider goalkeeping.
“I really enjoy how you can watch the game develop,” she said. “It is a very high pressure situation and I really enjoy it.”
Funk hasn’t looked back since permanently switching positions.
After finishing high school in Calgary, she made her way west to Trinity Western.
Spartans coach Graham Roxburgh was told she was the “best young keeper in western Canada, and possibly all of Canada at the youth level.”
“She brought such a professional presence when she visited that I knew she was a player we had to get and build around,” he said.
“We knew coming in she would step in and start because she is strong mentally and physically.”
She joined the team in 2008 and helped the Spartans capture back-to-back CIS national championships.
The team made the post-season in 2010, but failed to advance to nationals.
But the team has come back with a vengeance in 2011.
After a season-opening loss, the Spartans reeled off a 13-game unbeaten streak — which included a dozen victories — to finish atop the Canada West in the regular season.
Funk has been a big part of that success, earning first-team Canada West all-star honours with some sparkling numbers: an 0.50 goals against average, an .851 save percentage and seven shutouts while playing every moment of the team’s 16 games (14-1-1).
Over the weekend at the Canada West final four championships, the Spartans beat Victoria and edged Alberta 2-1 in penalty kicks.
Both Alberta and Trinity Western advanced to the CIS national championships, which run this weekend at Montreal’s McGill University.
The Spartans are not the only team Funk has played for recently.
Last summer, she joined the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Expected to play a back-up role, she was instead thrust into the starter’s position in the early part of the season because of an injury to the team’s No. 1 keeper.
Funk’s summer did have some setbacks, however.
Scheduled to represent Canada at the FISU (World University) Games in China — she also played at the Games in Serbia in 2009 — an ankle injury the week before training camp nixed those plans.