Arielle Roy-Petitclerc had just about given up on soccer.
Her dreams of suiting up for the Canadian national team and playing professionally were dealt a huge blow a few years ago after being cut from her provincial team for a third time.
Roy-Petitclerc had taken up the sport at the age of four and idolized the likes of Lionel Messi and French national women’s team member Camille Abily for their playmaking abilities and high soccer IQ.
But just 10 years later, she was at a crossroads — was it time to hang up the cleats?
She decided to keep pushing through, and her perseverance was rewarded. This past season with Laval University, Roy-Petitclerc had 10 goals and eight assists in 14 games to finish tied for third in the nation in scoring.
“I continued [playing] the sport even [with] the struggles that happened when I was 14. At that moment, that was a big deal,” she says.
“I’m really thankful people supported me to continue and [it’s helped me] to be the player that I am today.”
The 23-year-old’s standout collegiate career includes two national championships in the past three seasons and a long list of individual awards — including conference rookie of the year in 2013 and last season’s national player of the year.
Last May, the Laval midfielder added another trophy to the cabinet, winning the BLG Award as U Sports’ top female athlete of the year.
When informed of the news, Roy-Petitclerc was overcome with emotion.
“It meant a lot [considering] I didn’t give up [on soccer] when I was 14 — all the effort that I put [in] all those years to be a better player and person,” Roy-Petitclerc said.
Roy-Petitclerc was recently selected as Canada’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Summer Universiade in Taiwan.
Just as she led Canada’s delegation into Taipei Stadium, Roy-Petitclerc leads the Laval Rouge et Or as team captain.
“It’s a big responsibility but it’s pretty nice that you have the trust of your coach and teammates. You have to deal with a [lot of] pressure but it helps me to be confident, to be who I am, to be one of the best players on the field, and the best leader that I can be,” Roy-Petitclerc said.
Laval head coach Helder Duarte has nothing but praise for his star player.
“She has the ability to play in small spaces quickly and efficiently. I’ve never coached a player who does this as well as she does,” Duarte told U Sports. “She has an above-average vision of the game which allows her to make decisive passes.
“She is an incredible leader who leads by example. She is always there in important moments and that is what is impressive to me.”
Roy-Petitclerc’s development into a leader traces back to her first Universiade — two years ago in Gwangju, South Korea.
She says the experience gave her more confidence on the field heading back to Laval and is thankful for the opportunity to become a better player and person through the competition.
She was a fixture in Canada’s starting 11, helping the nation to a fourth-place finish and tying the best result in Canadian history at the event commonly known as the World University Games.
While Roy-Petitclerc admits that being so close to a medal was a tough pill to swallow, she’s happy to be part of a little bit of history.
“It was a little disappointing because we wanted the medal so much. But at the end of the day, we had the best result from [a Canadian Universiade] women’s soccer [team],” Roy-Petitclerc says.
“We didn’t expect that at the beginning of the tournament.”
Roy-Petitclerc currently plays semi-pro soccer for the Calgary Foothills of United Women’s Soccer (UWS) — a second-tier league designed to give post-collegiate players a chance to further develop for the professional and international ranks.
“I want to do something bigger in soccer. [Making] the national team is my biggest goal but right now my first objective is to play professionally in another country,” Roy-Petitclerc says.
The St. Nicolas, Que., native hopes the World University Games will help her get there one day.
But for now, Roy-Petitclerc is focused on helping Canada make history at the Universiade, and the prospect of doing so alongside five of her Rouge et Or teammates is exciting.
“It’s the best thing that could happen. I’ve got my best friends with me and some of the other girls [on the team] are really close to me too,” Roy-Petitclerc says.
“It’s easier to play with them, talk about the game, and [relate] with their emotions. If we win a medal, I win it with the girls that I’ve already won a national championship [with].”