Surrey striker has many sides to her game

Sullivan Heights’ grad Monika Levarsky leaving lasting impression with UFV Cascades

It’s not uncommon to hear of athletes that they possess something of a split personality – fierce and competitive on the field of play, yet much calmer off it.

And though rare is the person who lays claim to three personality types, Surrey soccer player Monika Levarsky may do just that, at least as far her head coach and University of the Fraser Valley Cascades teammates are concerned.

On the field, the third-year forward – and Sullivan Heights Secondary grad – is a fiery competitor who coach Rob Giesbrecht says “has a bit of a nasty streak in her.”

In the locker room and on the team bus, the competitive side wanes a bit, but is replaced by a persona that’s earned her the nickname ‘Diva’ among teammates and coaches for her penchant for being very particular, as well as for accessorizing otherwise boring team-issue track suits.

“I like to get dressed up – I just don’t like to wear sweatpants,” she laughed. “But (the nickname) doesn’t bother me, I own it.”

And then, far away from the soccer pitch, is Levarsky’s third persona – a nurturing, family-first young woman who works part-time with a nine-year-old autistic boy, who has been an avid volunteer since she was young, plans to go into nursing and says she “just loves to give back.”

“People are always bugging me that I’m three different people,” she told Peace Arch News last week. “I just have a really competitive personality on the field – it comes naturally to me. I just flip the switch to my soccer side.”

Then, with a laugh, she adds, “But I have a patient side, too – I’m not like that off the field!”

Her desire to give back – either through volunteering or working with autistic children – is something that, like her competitiveness, just comes naturally to her, she said.

“I’ve just always done it. It makes me appreciate what I have.”

And her teammates, too, have come to appreciate the differences between her on-field and off-field personas, Giesbrecht added.

“The more her teammates get to know her, the more they see that she has this totally different side to her,” he said.

“She’s an incredibly caring person – she’s a sweetheart.”

Her on-field intensity, meanwhile, was evident immediately upon joining the UFV soccer program after years spent in the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program, Giesbrecht said.

In Levarsky’s first season with the Cascades, while on a preseason trip to California, Giesbrecht – who had inserted Levarsky right into the starting lineup for her first-ever game – chose not to start her for her second game.

The message sent to his rookie striker was received loud and clear.

“I just didn’t think she played at the level she could play at, so I didn’t start her that next game, and I let her know that if she wants to be a starter here, she has to play at a certain level,” he explained.

“From that point on, I’ve never ever questioned her desire to be an impact player for us. She got that message really quick and I’ve never had to tell her again.

“It’s funny, a lot of kids don’t get that message right away. But every time she plays the game, she’s all-in.”

Levarsky’s intensity served her well this season with the Abbotsford-based Cascades, where by mid-October she’d already set a team record in goals in a season with 10. Many of those markers came during a single weekend in which she scored seven of her team’s 10 goals in two games.

The performance was enough to net her a CIS female athlete of the week award.

She sat out last Saturday’s game – a 2-0 win over Lethbridge – and the Cascades now prepare to host the University of Victoria Vikes Saturday in a first-round playoff tilt.

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