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Guelph native keeps filling the net (3 photos)

U of G star Victoria Hinchliffe continues to score goals no matter where she plays

Guelph native Victoria Hinchliffe sure makes scoring goals look easy.

The 2018 scoring champion in the Ontario Women’s Soccer League’s Premier Elite division for Guelph Soccer’s Gryphons, she’s also connected for 23 goals in three regular seasons of Ontario university play with the University of Guelph Gryphons women’s varsity team.

“It’s never been easy,” she said. “It’s always been a fight and I’ve always worked for it and I continue to try and get better.”

Hinchliffe is now a striker, but that wasn’t always the case.

“I did play outside mid for a bit when I was younger, then when they realized that I wasn’t that fit and I couldn’t last, they put me up top,” she said.

And who was that coach?

“That was my dad,” she answered. “He would take me out and we would practise all the time and he would try and get me to play differently than a lot of other girls.

“My dad would bring me out and we’d train a lot and I’d work on different techniques. It’s not so much why does it come easy because it definitely hasn’t been easy. I’ve just always wanted to better myself and I’m never satisfied if I don’t score. If I’m missing, I’m going to stay until I get one in the net.”

Hinchliffe is a gifted athlete who has been playing soccer since her parents started her in the sport when she was three. She played in Guelph Soccer’s house league program for a few years before switching to their rep program. Now she plays summer with that club and autumns with the university squad.

“I think the thing that separates Victoria from many other people is that she pushes herself to grow,” said Shayne Campbell who coaches both the summer and the university Gryphons. “I don’t think we see the same Hinch as the first year. First-year Hinch would’ve been looking for every single ball behind and just running behind and running behind and now you’re seeing a different effort.

“I think what you’re seeing is that maturity in her. That’s what makes her an exceptional player. Just when you think that you’ve understood the ways that she can do something, she just surprises you.”

Hinchliffe does seem to possess and ability to get open deep in the offensive zone.

“She just has a knack for it,” Campbell said. “Wherever she got that, I certainly can’t take credit for any of it. That’s for sure.”

A superb athlete, Hinchliffe was a two-sport star in local District 10 play at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School as she participated, and scored a lot, in field hockey in the fall and in soccer in the spring.

She was that good at field hockey that the U of Guelph’s field hockey team tried to recruit her.

“The coaches did talk to me at one point,” she said. “They talked to me before soccer so it’s just funny how it all worked out.”

She did look into playing both for the university, but it just wouldn’t work out. Both soccer and field hockey are fall sports.

“I thought about it, but I couldn’t,” she said.

Hinchliffe also thought about playing field hockey for the Gryphons instead of soccer, but that was before the soccer team had talked to her.

“I thought that if I was getting looked at in this that I haven’t been playing my whole life, then soccer should get me somewhere,” she said. “I just fell in love with soccer earlier in my life so it was always the priority. Field hockey was just kind of fun to play in high school. If I’d started it earlier, maybe it would’ve been something I’d more consider, but I definitely did think about it at the time.”

Hinchliffe also considered competing in track and field at high school, but couldn’t do both that and soccer.

“In Grade 9 I went to the meeting and then they said the rules. You had to go to an X amount of practices and I just couldn’t make it with soccer,” she said.

Last winter, though, she got a chance to run in a track event at a special varsity sports all-comers indoor 100 metres race at the Gryphon Fieldhouse during one of the track and field team’s meets.

“It was fun,” she said. “I was super embarrassed because everyone was in their full track get-up and I was just in my soccer stuff, but it was fun. I didn’t do terrible. I was happy to see that I could at least compete.

“I lost to a rugby athlete by milliseconds and in the actual event, I ended up beating one of the track runners. I felt ‘This is cool. I feel good about myself.’”

That speed that was on display on the track is likely her biggest weapon on the soccer field. It’s helped her score 23 goals in the past three Ontario university regular seasons, second only to the 28 netted by Jenny Wolever of Queen’s.

She was the OUA MVP last season and a national U Sports and provincial OUA first-team all-star. She was also an OUA West Division first-team all-star in 2016 when she was the division’s rookie of the year.

All those awards helped get her a tryout that she converted into a spot on the Canadian team that represented Canada at this summer’s World University Games in Italy.

“It was good,” she said of the experience. “A lot of people ask me how the soccer aspect of it was and it was just completely different from here. At Guelph, I’m a starter and play all the time whereas there I was a sub and had to fight for my minutes a lot more.

“It was just a completely different thing for me and mentally I had to adjust and get through that. But it also taught me a lot coming back here. Being one of the captains of the varsity team, I can now relate more with people who don’t play as much and it has just helped me grow as a person. I think it’ll turn me into a better leader for the program just because I’ve gone through so many different things with soccer now. I learned a lot about myself. It was a personal journey and discovery time.”

Hinchliffe had to raise funds for the trip and for her that was a difficult thing. However, she ended up getting plenty of support from the university, her family and friends and the local soccer community.

“I was scared to ask for money and that was the hardest part about it,” she said. “Once I did, they were all ‘Oh my gosh, of course we’ll support you.’ Now I’m trying to give back to them because I shouldn’t just take from them. I should give back and thank them for what they did because I couldn’t be where I am today or gotten there without (them).”

No matter which team Hinchliffe is playing for, she can usually be seen in the attacking zone, usually getting herself into a good position for a scoring chance. Her long, thick, dark hair also makes her easily identifiable.

“It is shorter,” she said. “I did cut it a bit, but I think I have to cut it shorter. It’s getting in my way to see the ball and that’s my biggest hurdle. Once I can’t see the ball, it needs to go a little less.

“People always say that I’m very easy to pick out because of my hair. If it helps anyone, I’ll take it.”

As she and the university Gryphons prepare to open their regular season this weekend (Saturday at York, Sunday at 1 p.m. at home against Waterloo), it’ll be hard for her to top the 2017 season when she scored the winning goal in a shootout on consecutive days in both the league semifinal and final.

“It was just so unbelievable and mind-blowing at the time and I don’t know if anything can top it, but you’ve got to try.”