Weekly senior spotlight feature was written by Connor Wagner for CUWFalcons.com
Had you asked the 14-year-old version of Tabitha Oritz what sport she wanted to be good at, her answer would have been simple – softball. Fast forward to the present and the now senior captain for the Concordia Wisconsin Women's Soccer team can't help but crack a smile when she talks about it.
"It's really funny how I ended up playing goalkeeper," Ortiz expressed. "At first my parents put my younger brother in soccer to tire him out because he was so energetic. Soccer seemed a lot more fun to me so I made the switch. When I first started playing no one ever wanted to be the goalie, but in my head, as long as I was on the field I was contributing to what was happening in the game. And after a while, I really started to like it and it just has stuck with me ever since."
Most players want to score goals, it's what drives them to get better every day. Ortiz, on the other hand, finds her sense of enjoyment from leaving an empty scoreboard for the opposition, which she has done nine times in complete-game efforts during her Falcon career.
"My favorite part of playing the position is that I can see everything that's going on and I love the idea of competitively stopping someone from accomplishing their goal, no pun intended," Ortiz stated. "It's fun making a save and watching that attacking player get frustrated that I stopped their shot. It gets me amped up."
Ortiz enters the final season of her collegiate career with 144 career saves and a career save percentage of .787 and a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. The Falcons, led by Ortiz and the team's two other seniors, are projected to finish fifth in the NACC Preseason Poll this season. A feat that Ortiz says, the team uses as motivation.
"We train hard," expressed the senior leader. "Everything is played like a game; the drills, how we run at one another, how we talk to each other. When it's time to compete, it's like a whole other mindset. We play for the team and each other and nothing else matters; win or lose."
The Falcons are currently 2-2-2 overall and are unbeaten in conference play, having downed Marian 3-2 on Wednesday. This has mostly to do with the overall attitude of the team, as head coach Ryan Middendorf and the leaders on the team made it a point of emphasis to start things off on the right foot and keep a positive mindset regardless of the situation.
Ortiz in particular has embraced her role as a vocal leader on the team. As she puts it, she was a follower that evolved into a leader over the course of four years.
"My role has evolved from being the quiet freshman that split time, to becoming a loud senior captain that doesn't have to share the spot anymore," Ortiz said making a point. "I feel now that I don't have to worry about sharing the starting position, I am able to show this team more than I've ever been able to in the past."
While she may be an outspoken player during games, prior to taking the field she says she tends to keep quiet and try to stay loose.
"I try to drown everything else out," Ortiz said when talking about her pre-game routine. "I don't take my headphones off until captains are called over by the referees. I feel like if I don't listen to music that energizes me, my head kind of feels in a scramble. Music keeps me in sort of a tunnel vision. All I see is the ball that's coming at me or the ball I need to grab. I don't hear the people around me and thoughts that aren't related to the game have no room to buzz around in my head."
Despite her pre-game focus and demeanor, Ortiz understands just as well as the rest of the team that there's a time to work and a time to let loose and have some fun with her teammates. One of the ways the team does this is by going bowling with Men's Soccer team during the pre-season.
"It's a great way for the two teams to bond with one another," says Ortiz. "We're just one big soccer family who supports one another throughout the course of the season."
Having a good support system around you is often times crucial to the success or failure of some student-athletes. Luckily, Ortiz says she has the best support system she could ever ask for – her family.
"I would definitely have to say that my number one supporter is my father," Ortiz said. "He's always come to my games, but this year he is making sure he makes it to every single one of them. He doesn't want to miss a moment of my senior year and I'm so blessed to have that love and support. My mother and brother are my number one fans as well, but with my mother's work schedule and my brother's football games, it's difficult for them to travel to games unless they're in Illinois. But they still keep updated on the scores and always congratulate me after a win."
While there is still a long season left ahead for Ortiz and team, she admits that sometimes she can't help but look back and reflect on some of her favorite memories over the years.
"My favorite soccer memory has to be winning conference my sophomore year," she said with a smile. "That was such an accomplishment for the team, coaches and the program as a whole. It's something I think we as a team strive for every day and hope to achieve."