ANTIGONISH, NS - When she stepped on the turf during that late summer Friday evening, it was a moment Rebecca Lambke had dreamt of for as long as she could remember.
It was the first time, as a varsity player, that the Antigonish native took the field at St. F.X.’s Oland Stadium.
“It was an incredible experience,” the freshman midfielder with the defending Atlantic University Sport (AUS) soccer champion Cape Breton University Capers said.
Although a visiting player, the first-year Bachelor of Science student received plenty of applause from family and friends when she subbed in midway through the first half.
“It was awesome,” Lambke said of the reception she received.
The Capers defeated the hometown St. F.X. X-Women 2-1 in the early regular season match-up.
“I imagined being in that position for so long,” Lambke said, noting her countless times in those stands, growing up, watching the Blue and White.
As for heading across the Canso Causeway to the Sydney campus, the 18-year-old said the decision was cemented during her recruiting visit.
“Everyone was really nice, really welcoming,” Lambke said from her campus residence room.
She credited her teammates and coaches for making it “an easy transition.”
“They made me feel part of the team right way,” she added.
Although they are defending conference champions – and U Sports silver medallists – Lambke said she has been so impressed with her new team’s focus; they take nothing for granted.
“They have an incredible attitude – it is about taking it one game at a time,” she added, describing her teammates as “so humble.”
Each day provides a new challenge and opportunity for the Capers.
“Everyone pushes each other,” Lambke said.
Work to do
Veteran Caper head coach Stephen ‘Ness’ Timmons said the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals’ product is “off to a great start.”
“Rebecca is fitting in very well with our team,” he said, noting Lambke’s “composure on the ball.”
“She also has tremendous vision on the field,” Timmons added.
Since joining the Caper program, he said, Lambke has improved “day-to-day, week-to-week.”
“We liked what we saw,” Timmons added, describing his first-year player as a “standout” in high school and on the provincial stage.
He noted Lambke has “great potential.”
“Her engine is great – she can run all day,” Timmons said, in reflecting on her ability in the centre midfield and her tremendous “energy.”
“She never runs out of gas – and is always on the ball – which we love,” he added.
As for the adjustment to playing at the AUS level, Lambke talked about the “speed of play.”
“Someone is always on the ball,” she said.
As for her early-season performance, Lambke noted, “I am doing an alright job, but I also have a lot of work to do.”
She is “very pleased and surprised” with the amount of playing time she is getting.
“I need to keep developing my play,” Lambke said, when asked where she needs to improve.
She added cleaner touches and playing more quickly will also be focuses.
“I am just going to keep working hard,” Lambke said.
Although she was born and raised in Antigonish, the move to Cape Breton University was a homecoming, of sorts, because of Lambke’s deep family roots in the area.
Her grandparents don’t live too far from campus, with Georgina and Jim Merrill residing in Dominion, while Bernadette and Ron Gardiner are from Gardiner Mines.
“I spent a lot of time here growing up, so that helped so much,” Lambke said of her move away from home.
She has plenty of support at Caper home games, including from her parents – Rusty and Gina – who make the almost two-and-a-half hour or so drive from Antigonish.
While reflecting on reaching the university level, Lambke talked about how important her time with Antigonish Celtics Soccer Club has been in reaching that goal.
“I had so many incredible coaches and teammates,” she said, noting they “pushed me” and helped her get better.
Lambke added she received tremendous support and development.
“I had nothing but great experiences and they are the reason that I am here,” she said.