Growing up on a farm in a football family has its perks, especially for a player competing at the post-secondary level whose second season was canceled by the pandemic.
Not only did Terin Hultink have access to a small football field at Selah’s family equestrian center in Fenwick, but she had four siblings willing to give up some of their free time to help her use it.
And this field has been put to good use. Hultink didn’t feel the least bit rusty when she returned for a third year at Niagara College and her second season with the Knights women’s soccer team.
“My free time was basically football. They were always ready to play with me,” she said of older brothers Tim and Taylor and younger sisters Tori and Talia.
“Almost every day of the week we would go out and play a little football.”
Hultink also played on the women’s varsity basketball team during her freshman year at the area community college after graduating from Smithville Christian High School. She led the Knights in rebounds, averaging 10.7 per game; as well as flights, 1.7; and finished third in scoring, 9.7 points.
What sport would the recreation therapy student leave out if she had to?
“I should say football,” she said after reflection. “I think I feel more comfortable with the game.
“I played football longer.”
In fact, she has. Jason and Tawna Hultink’s daughter started kicking a soccer ball when she was five years old.
“I played there for so long. My family loves it. Hultink, now 20, said. “I have two older brothers and they grew up playing against each other all the time.
“My dad grew up playing, so it’s just kind of our family sport.”
She played in the Pelham Panthers Minor Soccer Association until the age of 12. After that, she competed with Club Roma in St. Catharines.
This season, Hultink and his Knights co-captain Sydney Sica have scored nine goals in six games, tying the single-season record set in 2015 by Jackie Lawther in 10 games. Hultink needed just 15 games to set the career high with 16, surpassing the 15 goals scored by Michelle Maecker in three seasons with the Knights.
“It’s very exciting to be able to do that in my first two years of playing.”
She credits the composition of this year’s squad with helping her and Sica find the back of the net.
“The good thing about this team this year is that we have strong midfielders who can go through the middle, so I can get up high as a striker,” Hultink said. “It’s good because I have an attacking mentality.
“I like to make those runs, get the ball back and go to the net with it.”
She likes to control the “middle game” when she is on the pitch.
“Most of my life I played in midfield.”
Niagara was able to stay undefeated in the league by going 6-0 and earning a playoff quarter-final bye despite missing all of last season due to COVID- 19. A “big part” of that success, Hultink said, has to do with head coach Rob Lalama and his coaching staff.
“During COVID, when the teams stopped and everything, they didn’t stop. They kept looking for the right players and recruiting, continuing to build our team,” she said. “It really helped because going back to tryouts we looked at the talent that came out and said, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a really good team. “”
Saturday, the Knights, first, South Division; host defending OCAA bronze medalist Humber, 4-2, second, Central Division; during a 2 p.m. kickoff at Youngs Sportsplex in Welland. The winner will qualify for the Provincial Championships to be held Oct. 29-30 at Fanshawe College in London, Ont.
Niagara and Humber did not meet during the regular season.
Hultink heads into this weekend’s must-win game unworried that the first-round bye will take advantage of the momentum that has been building since day one.
“It depends on how we play in training,” she said. “As long as we maintain this level of competitive play, everything should be fine.
“We have to keep our eyes on the next game and what it looks like as far as we have to train.”
The 6-0 regular season, while a record for a program dating back to 2009, is already a thing of the past as far as the Knights co-captain is concerned. She suggested that while Niagara had some “tough games,” they weren’t the maximum level of competition the team could face.
“We’ll definitely be up against tougher teams, but there were areas where we showed our strength and it was like, ‘OK, wow, this team could actually go quite far.'”
With the OCAA shortening the season to six out of 10 games and limiting a team’s schedule to home and away playoffs with teams in its division, Hultink believes the Knights haven’t been “seriously challenged yet.” “.
Niagara players talk about their state of mind at every practice. They also remember that “half of it all is a mental game”.
“In every game, you have to be ready for anything. You can’t just think, ‘Oh, this is this team, we’ve got it.'”
Taking on leadership responsibilities as co-captain didn’t put additional pressure on the second-year player.
“Actually, I like being captain. Looking at the team, it’s quite a young team and I already feel it in a bit of a leadership role.
Apart from getting along, Hultink and Sica form a formidable 1-2 attacking punch on the football field.
“We agree on a lot of things. Even on the pitch, we contributed a lot to each other and to all of our goals,” Hultink said. “It’s a great team. There is good team morale.
“It’s easy to be captain in this team.”
She began studying Recreation Therapy in Niagara after two years in the Educational Assistant program. Hultink, whose summer job is teaching riding lessons on the family farm, would like to make a career out of it.
“I am looking to join the therapeutic riding program and work with children with special needs.”