Dual-sport Ram switches gears from soccer to hockey

Whether she’s lacing up before hitting the ice or throwing on cleats before jogging to the field, it doesn’t make a difference for Rams hockey goalie Alex  “Army” Armstrong.

Now that her soccer stint is over, Rams goalie Alex Armstrong is excited to focus on hockey (Courtesy Ryerson Athletics).

Now that her soccer stint is over, Rams goalie Alex Armstrong is excited to focus on hockey (Courtesy Ryerson Athletics).

Athletes are here to win and Armstrong is ready to do just that — no matter the attire. Riddled with injuries, the soccer team was in a pinch to find a keeper and Armstrong rose to the occasion.

“It came from the soccer coaches,” Rams women’s hockey head coach Lisa Haley said. “They were scrambling to find someone with any sort of experience and Army has played competitive soccer in the past.”

Able to dribble a ball since she was four years old, Armstrong played soccer until she was 13 before deciding to focus on hockey. She joined the Rams in 2013-14 and had a 1-7 record in her rookie season. Those results aside, it’s Armstrong’s ability to rise from the bottom that makes her so valuable.

“She really likes to be the underdog and rise to the occasion,” Haley said. “I don’t think that intimidates Alex at all.”

Last season, Armstrong and fellow goaltender Ally Sarna split time going 7-3-1 in Ryerson’s final 10 games, helping the team clinch its first playoff berth in the program’s history.

Despite lacking experience on the pitch compared to her soccer teammates, Armstrong’s mental toughness made her transition easier.

“She has the swagger,” Ryerson’s athletic director and women’s soccer head coach Ivan Joseph said. “She’s technically not where our other goalies are, but she has that confidence so she’s able to step in and start.”

As far as dropkicking the ball and collapsing the dive is concerned, Armstrong is forced to improvise.

“Ivan says I have no technique whatsoever playing soccer,” Armstrong said. “The odd time I go into butterfly and I look like an idiot, but I just focus on stopping the ball.”

See our video interview with coach Lisa Haley on dual athlete Alex Armstrong:

Fortunately for her, soccer and hockey have similar angles — namely the low post and short side — so she relies on this and her confidence to carry through.

Sure enough Armstrong was able to step up, securing a win in her first game.

“Getting the win and knowing that the team was there to help me, that was the most rewarding part of the experience,” she said. “I went into the game extremely nervous just never playing at that high of a level, and they just calmed me down, made sure everything was okay and it was great.”

Armstrong started in four games for the Rams soccer team, registering a win, two ties and a loss. She travelled to Oshawa with the team this past weekend, serving as a backup to regular starter Brittney Clendenan, whose broken wrist has finally healed.

This couldn’t have come at a better time as the Rams open their hockey season Oct. 8 against the Toronto Varsity Blues at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

Even during Armstrong’s soccer stint, hockey remained her top priority, but she’s excited to go back to focusing on one sport.

“We have really high goals and want to show other teams that we can be top five this year,” she said. “We’re making sure we’re ready to play at the start of every game, and I think that as practices go on the intensity’s going to get stronger.”

Her hockey coach is just as excited to get her back.

“I think both coach Joseph and myself are happy to see her back playing one sport,” Haley said. ”She’s obviously here to play hockey and now that everything’s back to normal, I think everybody’s happy with that.”

 

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